The CODE foursome never find anything missing in “chordless” music; nor do they launch those wild, deep-cosmos explorations of many sans-piano free-jazz bands. They treat lack of harmony as matter-of-fact opportunity, for evocation, a safe creative zone from which to summon spirits. The space between layers and respect for the middle serves them well (except for bassist Adrian Vedady sometimes not coming through clearly), as do impish irregularities in composition. Christine Jensen’s alto might take a passage alone, or it might run counterpoint to Lex French’s trumpet; then these lines become cables in improv, underpinning the whole.
They all write except drummer Jim Doxas (who mixed the album), and they all take care around that core, never ripping, tearing, jostling, or impugning each other’s web strands. Such politeness never falls stiff, though. They keep faith in musical democracy and spirituality: the notion that any one partner can take in the whole, feelers out, wait, then speak when something to say arrives.
Doxas feeds the home fires, knowing exactly what to hit and how gently. The horns can stab and punch but more often roll out legato, manifesting the stream uniting their four stones. And most impressive of all, they make that seem a natural state. Can’t be that easy. But they make it seem, something that couldn’t be any other way.