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Taylor Ho Bynum & Spidermonkey String: Other Stories [Three Suites]

Experience has made me pretty adept at discerning which parts of any given performance are composed and which are improvised. It’s generally easier to tell than it should be. Not that it necessarily matters; it’s the end result that counts. Chances are, however, if the composed and improvised don’t integrate well, the music probably won’t be very interesting. Composer/trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum does an admirable job on Other Stories [Three Suites] in making that line as invisible as possible, creating a series of well conceived and executed suites that make an organic-sounding use of organization and spontaneity.

Bynum’s chamber-sized ensemble is made up of a string section featuring the extraordinary violinist Jason Hwang and the equally fine cellist Tomas Ulrich, and a rhythm section that includes such notables as tubaist Joe Daley, drummer Luther Gray and vibist Jay Hoggard. Bynum’s bag includes traditional four-part writing, structured improvisation, ostinato-based grooves and various other devices, all of which–with the help of the master improvisers on hand–he uses to create episodic compositions of much depth. With the exception of some slight intonation problems on the part of the trumpeter, there’s not much to dislike, and there’s a great deal to admire.

Originally Published