A couple of newies on Clean Feed
Revis is a player both hard-swinging and exploratory, as comfortable with extended techniques as he is with straight-ahead walking. He has solid compositional ideas, utilizing counterpoint in ways that recall Andrew Hill in his early '60s prime as well as Cecil Taylor's classic Blue Note LPs, and an oblique take on the tradition akin to Henry Threadgill's with Air, which he applies here to material by Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton. The most interesting pieces, however, are the collective improvisations "Celestial Hobo" (on which each player was asked to interpret a written text), "IV," and "ENKJ." The all-star players are their classic selves, but it's Revis' concepts that make the date. Impressive work.
I'd never heard of bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten before he released The Hymn Project with Big D's finest, trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez. Then this year he turned up on one of my records of the year, Neneh Cherry & The Thing's The Cherry Thing. Now he's got a new disc, Now Is, out with his New York Quartet, another all-star outfit that boasts saxophonist Joe McPhee, guitarist Joe Morris, trumpeter Nate Wooley, and no drummer. It's an introspective-sounding outing, with all the tunes but one collectively improvised.
Morris -- a guitarist I've never really "gotten" on other recordings of his I've heard, on acoustic here -- chords busily behind the horns and solos in a way that puts me in mind of Zooid's Liberty Ellman (or is it the other way around?); can someone say "Hot Club of Saturn?" The buzzing horns and arco bass on "Knicks" recall the multiphonic cacophony of Trane's "The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost," minus Rashied and Elvin's drum thunder. The pieces have titles alluding to locations (e.g., Port Authority, Times Square, a Manhattan penthouse) or sports teams associated with the Big Apple (no Yankees or Mets, though; maybe Flaten's not a baseball fan), and Clifford Allen's notes inform us that some were edited from longer improvisations. One gets the impression these guys could play together for hours and never go over the same ground twice.