Before they gave in to New York City's gravitational pull, misplacing a trumpeter in the process, the Gold Sparkle Trio shared a situation and an aesthetic with their guest reedist, Ken Vandermark. The trio used to be known as Atlanta's Gold Sparkle Band, and like Chicago's Vandermark, Gold Sparkle generated scrappy, spark-filled music drawn from '60s freebop a lot of highway miles from America's jazz capital. The situation has changed-these Southerners are now penning odes to their adopted home of Williamsburg, Brooklyn-but the aesthetic remains. Gold Sparkle would not be Gold Sparkle without Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. And neither would Vandermark. Brooklyn Cantos puts this compatible crew in the studio together for the first time.
The group only had two days to rehearse and record. Perhaps that's why Brooklyn Cantos sounds like a more tentative version of what could have been. In the interest of time, they decided to go almost entirely with Gold Sparkle compositions, the bulk of which belong to reedist Charles Waters. The opener and sole exception, Sirone's "People's Republic," nods to another Gold Sparkle ancestor, the Revolutionary Ensemble. Vandermark's earthy, measured solos, most often on tenor sax and bass clarinet, come touched with R&B and often burrow down into the bottom layer of the tune, sometimes doubling Adam Roberts' bass lines. Waters, by contrast, roars over the top of the group with a bit more urgency. Individually, they manage some impressive moments, and there are some terrific tunes here. Vandermark sounds particularly good on the ballad "Autumn Ever." But Waters and Vandermark develop little rapport-they sound like they're taking turns at the mike and keeping a respectful distance. This disjointedness may be the culprit behind flat numbers like the strangely lifeless New Orleans funk number "Carpet Quarterbagger."