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The MacroQuarktet: The Complete Night: Live at the Stone NYC (Out of Your Head)

Review of a reissued and expanded live recording by a downtown supergroup

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Cover of the MacroQuarktet album The Complete Night
Cover of the MacroQuarktet album The Complete Night

About two years after the Stone opened its original New York location (the Alphabet City storefront celebrated with an oral history in the June 2018 issue of JazzTimes), a group cheekily calling itself the MacroQuarktet—trumpeters Dave Ballou and Herb Robertson, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Tom Rainey—set up shop for two performances one summer night. The first set, originally released in 2009 under the title Each Part Whole, has long been out of print and unavailable.

Until now. The on-the-rise Out of Your Head label has not only reissued this prized document of downtown improvisation but has also tacked on a companion disc that captures the previously unreleased second set.

As the story goes, after a recording session with Satoko Fujii’s Undulation, Ballou and Robertson deemed it essential to join forces and form a smaller group. Gress and Rainey were soon enlisted and the MacroQuarktet took shape. The Stone’s website originally described the ensemble thus: “Debut performance of a new collaborative band featuring special notated compositions and group improvisation.” That’s a rather pedestrian caption given the magnitude and majesty of The Complete Night.

Throughout these two spellbinding sets lie myriad layers of rich detail and engrossing interaction. The music is certainly of the cerebral variety, full of textural nuances and rhythmic shifts, but the landscapes they lay bare are feathery, ethereal, and hypnotic. The MacroQuarktet improvise at the highest level of unpredictability and adventure. A sure-fire candidate for best historical release of 2020.