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Charlie Kohlhase

Charlie Kohlhase

Should a firespitter like Peter Brotzmann title a recording something brazen like Play Free or Die, fans would probably take the hint and back away from their speakers. When saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase does just that, it’s not the same thing. His new recording, a double-disc live documentation of his quintet, does include plenty of free improv, but not of the razed-earth variety. The free passages share space with full-chested swing, sharp arrangements and the kind of broad humor Kohlhase gleaned from his mentor, Roswell Rudd. As Kohlhase (pronounced coal-haze) points out, the title isn’t to be taken literally. It’s actually a bit of a jab.

“[The title] basically comes from the frustration of trying to do new music in New Hampshire. I was first starting to get into playing that kind of music and it was so frustrating dealing with the jazz establishment up there. Sad to say, but the attitude is not much better 25 years later,” he says, pointing out that his new release draws from taped concerts in every far-Northeastern state save for his home one. The cover of the recording, it must also be said, depicts New Hampshire’s license plate with its motto slightly altered.

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