The Art of Negotiation
The Balance of Trade
Legend Street One
On track to release 25 titles in its first year, CIMP-Creative Improvised Music Projects-has almost instantly become the leading North American label of its kind. With clean, unprocessed live to two-track engineering and an uniform approach to cover art and booklet design, CIMP has developed an identity that will serve them well for the long haul. CIMP's catalog is already brimming with the type of personnel connections between releases common to great labels as different as Blue Note and FMP. These four discs extend the CIMP network while solidifying the label's foundations.
Given that his recent 9 Winds output has focused on his Quintet and Large Ensemble, Vinny Golia's duet program with bassist Ken Filiano is a welcomed change of vantage on the L.A.-based multi-reedist. Throughout The Art of Negotiation, Golia and Filiano improvise in whole chapters, quickly setting the scene, developing characters, and throwing in a few plot twists. Beyond their compatibility in terms of ideas, Golia and Filiano seem joined at the hip in terms of sound; the expansive Golia's woody clarinets and oboeish sopranino saxophone alternately blend with and bounce off Filiano's crisp, racing lines, space-soaking lyricism, and boldly textured arco effects. The Art of Negotiation is a win/win proposition.
Transcendence features two New Thing stalwarts, altoist Sonny Simmons and drummer Charles Moffett, triangulating with strich and manzello specialist Michael Marcus. This is a more fulfilling album than Simmons' '94 Qwest disc, Ritual. For the most part, Simmons' flinty compositions spark energetic improvisations, pitting the astringent timbres and racing lines of the horns against Moffett's crossrhythms. In the rare instances when Simmons slows the pace, as on the double deep blue unaccompanied solo, "Geraldine's Dream," he proves to be in command of poignant emotional details.
Paul Lytton's The Balance of Trade is a challenging album. These non-idiomatic improvisations integrate live electronics with Phillipp Wachsmann's violin and viola, Dominic Duval's bass, Herb Robertson's brass, and Lytton's percussion. The quartet works with the aural equivalent of sub-atomic particles, realigning bits of texture into startling new configurations. Rather than emphasize virtuosity, the work taxes the musicians' ability to build upon emerging forms with tenuously defined materials. It's a cliché to say that such albums reward committed listening, but, in the case of The Balance of Trade, it's true.
Joe McPhee is an important link between the African-American avant-garde and the international improvised music network. Legend Street One is a prime example of how the multi-instrumentalist bridges these communities to make vital music, bringing together Moffett, tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe, and the exceptional Canadian violinist David Prentice. Only two of the eight action-painted performances feature the entire quartet, but the duos, trios, and a rare Moffett solo piece rounding out the program are far from filler. While they only share about a third of the album's playing time-including a rousing opening duo-pairing McPhee and Lowe was an inspired idea. Hopefully, Legend Street Two is just around the corner.