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Robert Dick with the Dave Soldier String Quartet: Jazz Standards on Mars

There are few musicians who are truly revolutionary. Flutist Robert Dick is one of them (actually “flutist” is a bit of an understatement; he plays everything from piccolo to contrabass flute). He has expanded flute technique to include circular breathing, multiphonics, and a seemingly endless inventory of percussive and voice-enhanced techniques. In this regard, he is comparable to saxophonist Evan Parker. Yet, Dick deftly applies his innovative techniques in a startling array of settings. In one of Dick’s ventures, Oscura Luminosa, a genre-busting collaboration of Baroque specialists and free improvisers, the book spans Monteverdi and Metallica. The range of Jazz Standards On Mars, Potion and Aurealis, is equally impressive. Yet, the last impression made by these three discs is their musicality.

One of the first sterling albums of ’98, Jazz Standards On Mars is Dick’s second disc with violinist Dave Soldier’s String Quartet (with violinist Regina Carter, violist Judith Ixsell and cellist Dawn Buckholz). In addition to an industrial strength treatment of Hendrix’s “Machine Gun”-the first Dick/Soldier project was the ’93 mostly-Hendrix program, Third Stone From The Sun (New World/Counter Currents)-Jazz Standards On Mars includes Soldier’s bold arrangements of compositions by Coleman, Coltrane, Dolphy and Shorter. There is an attractive world music flavor to some of the charts: Coltrane’s “India” benefits greatly by a hint of an undulating, Bengali pop pulse, while Ornette’s “Three Wishes” has a swirling, Turkish-tinged groove. Even when the interpretations are fairly straight up-as is the case with Dolphy’s “Gazzelloni” and Shorter’s “Water Babies”-there are dollops of striking color (like Soldier’s banjo on the former and Valerie Naranjo’s vibes on the latter) that throw new light on the works. The project also benefits from a strong cast and the platooning of rhythm sections (bassists Mark Dresser and Kermit Driscoll join drummer Ben Perowsky on the Dolphy and Hendrix pieces; bassist Richard Bona, drummer Steve Arguelles and Naranjo, doubling on percussion, perform on the others). Carter is excellent throughout the program, as equally effective sawing like Sugar Cane Harris on “Machine Gun” as she is navigating the open-ended improvised section of Dolphy’s “Something Sweet, Something Tender.” Obviously inspired, Dick runs the technical gamut-from breath and tongue punctuated lines on “Gazzelloni” to menacing bass flute vocalizations on “Machine Gun”-to produce consistently pungent statements. Jazz Standards On Mars takes chamber jazz to a new level.

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