To the extent that the word "song" implies tunefulness and lyricism, Marty Ehrlich's latest CD is appropriately named. Assisted by pianist Uri Caine, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Billy Drummond, reedist Ehrlich emphasizes the beauty inherent in the melodies of several of his own pieces and tunes by Robin Holcomb, Jaki Byard and Bob Dylan. His bass clarinet reverently introduces Holcomb's folkishly modal "Waltz" before settling into a lightly swinging boppish mode. On "The Price of the Ticket," his composed, out-of-tempo duet with Formanek's bowed bass features an almost classical alto approach before the band drops into crisp, uptempo improvisation. And his gorgeous reading of "Day of the Dark Bright Light" even evokes the sultry alto saxophone style exemplified by the classic "Harlem Nocturne." The same careful attention to melodic content is evident on Dylan's jazz-rockish ballad "I Pity the Poor Immigrant," Ehrlich's own "Fauve" and Byard's "The Falling Rains of Life."
But one track stands out as a departure from the overall melodic ambiance. On "Blue Boye's Blues," called "a musical portrait of the late Julius Hemphill," the wild trombonist Ray Anderson joins in for an excursion that is anything but tuneful in the normal sense. Growls, rumbles, squeaks, pointillistic sounds, fiery collective improvising-all contribute to an exciting visceral contrast to its gentle surroundings.