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Assif Tsahar’s Brass Reeds Ensemble: The Hollow World

Suggesting an intriguing shift in direction or, at least, approach, for some of New York’s improvised music community, these two albums, released on the label operated by tenor saxophonist Assif Tsahar and drummer Susie Ibarra, embrace interesting compositional structures to shape improv-heavy music. Although the participants rate as some of the city’s finest free musicians, the written material by Tsahar serves to prod and challenge the spontaneous playing from the group.

On The Hollow World, a largish band-trumpeters Herb Robertson and Cuong Vu, French hornist Vincent Chancey, tubaist Joe Daley, Jonas, alto saxophonist Rob Brown, Tsahar and Ibarra-play tunes, but more than melodic constructs, his compositions work as multi-thematic springboards. On “Tapestry of Dreams,” for example, a bee-like buzz-drone of horns undulates beneath the statement of the somber melody by Robertson and Chancey, setting a palpably brooding tone-the drone is impressionistic, a la Debussy’s “La Mer,” albeit much darker-and the string of solos that follow feed from it in perpetually shifting ways. Tsahar inserts choppy horn bursts or revisits that drone, a trick that prevents each soloist from falling into a comfort zone. His choice to use pairs of simultaneous soloists on tunes like “The Edge of Infinity” and “The Luminous Tree” is another wise move, keeping each performer focused, bearing in mind what his partner is doing. On the brief but beautiful gospel-flavored “Rainbow on My Table” each musician freely embellishes Tsahar’s melody but without losing the piece’s mooring. No doubt some of these ideas have been explored by Tsahar in William Parker’s Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, but this recording still displays more personality than anything he’s released thus far in his career.

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