Despite being among the earliest participants in those Chicago cultural and musical movements that created the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as some other AACM stalwarts like Muhal Richard Abrams, the Art Ensemble and Henry Threadgill. Of course, McIntyre's not their compositional equal, and his records have never reached the level of cult status. But he's certainly as skilled and versatile a player as anyone in his generation, although he's only playing tenor sax on South Eastern, a trio date recorded last year.
As always, CIMP sessions are expertly engineered, something that makes the band's unusual tenor/tuba/drums lineup sound even more daring. Likewise, the group's mode shifts not only from tune to tune, but sometimes within one song. McIntyre's compositions shatter the usual stereotype about "outside" sessions. There are no 20-minute cuts among the disc's 12 numbers; there's one tune that's less than three minutes long, and most are under six. Instead, the emphasis here is on mood and instrumental interplay. Things are conducted so cooperatively neither McIntyre nor tuba player Jesse Dulman ever dominate any piece. McIntyre occasionally executes the spindling, cavorting solos that highlighted his early Delmark albums, but his work is less frenzied and more lush and serene.
Dulman eschews the bellowing tuba role heard in traditional jazz and the shuddering, wavery effects parlayed in groups led by Arthur Blythe. Sometimes, as on "Baby Babasin" or the first take of "Antoinette," he waits for McIntyre to establish the musical context before responding. On songs like "Respectful Anarchy" and "Big John Coltrane" he displays a fluidity and imagination that might be better showcased on a more rhythmically aggressive date. Drummer Ravish Momin is alternately buoyant, swinging, delicate or challenging depending on what McIntyre and Dulman establish in the opening moments of a piece. His most spirited playing comes on "Baby Babasin," "Kalaparush and the Light" and "Respectful Anarchy," where he's defining the rhythmic foundation rather than suggesting it or augmenting what the horns are developing.
South Eastern can be troubling and tough to follow at times, but it is ultimately rewarding for those willing to openly engage the music. McIntyre's unconcerned with conforming to traditional notions of jazz or swing, so several of South Eastern's compositions lack surging arrangements. However, the pieces are also unorthodox, and like Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre's past works, certainly worth closer scrutiny.