Release the Day
Australian keyboardist Barney McAll bears an impressive resume. He's studied with Barry Harris and Mulgrew Miller and played with Billy Harper, Dewey Redman, Richie Cole and the Groove Collective, among others. Since 1996, the two musicians that have influenced him most, according to his bio, are Cuban piano virtuoso Chucho Valdes and Miles Davis acolyte Gary Bartz.
Those latter influences matter most on Release the Day, McAll's debut on the Transparent label. The album leads off with "Thirty Three," a slow, repetitive groove reminiscent of the opening movement of Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Bartz blows impassioned alto on the track, while McAll's playing ranges from percussive note hammering to smooth cocktail tinkling. At nearly 16 minutes in length, however, the minimal material is stretched too thin to sustain interest.
Bartz and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel burn with a tightly controlled fire on the Cuban-flavored "Obatala," over which McAll sprinkles stardust with overdubbed celeste and Mwandishi-era Herbie Hancock space sounds. McAll pairs his electric keys with Joey Baron's evocative sizzles and thumps on "Chaos Lento," and employs a good old fashioned Hammond B-3 to accompany Peter Apfelbaum's tenor sax on the soulful title track. "No Go Die" yokes the timbres of electric Miles to a stuttering rhythmic vamp underpinning an otherwise conventional tenor and trombone melody. Wood flutes and handclaps accompany vocalist Julie Patton's shrieks and ululations in "Tanzanian Folk Melody," but a plodding rhythm section stomps the lift out of its reggae borrowings. A closing solo keyboard piece, "Daria," drifts off into ethereal Harold Budd territory.
On paper, these myriad influences and stylistic devices suggest a unique listening experience, and it's true that Begin the Day is chock-full of fascinating moments and passages. But the album's pacing-with one vamp after another after another-ultimately proves tedious. It argues strongly for the inclusion of a warning sticker advising listeners not to operate heavy machinery while listening.