There’s always the potential conundrum, when listening to jazz that doesn’t adhere to the usual bop or postbop terrain, that the music will slide off into oblivion, evading both fan and newcomer. But this remarkable two-CD set from veteran drummer/composer Whit Dickey takes the opposite course. Consisting of two quartet performances—one “yin,” in Dickey’s description, the other “yang”—The Tao Quartets offers two sides of an elastic coin.
Disc one, Peace Planet—performed by Matthew Shipp on piano, Rob Brown on alto saxophone, William Parker on bass, and Dickey—is a celebration of gentle improvisations and longtime partnerships. Dickey’s pulsing hi-hat propels the title track with jabbing figures, to which Shipp responds with his fluttering logic. “Seventh Sun” increases the tempo, Parker and Dickey holding down a classic eighth-note-driven bass-and-drums pulse, around which Brown and Shipp dart like aggressive butterflies. “Suite for DSW” begins as a duo for drums and alto, Dickey’s drub-drub drops and cluttered chatter mirroring Brown’s scattershot declarations. Shipp’s entrance changes the mood dramatically, followed by Parker’s low, buzzing howl.