Angela On The Arts: Within

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“American post bop/hard bop jazz trumpeter, born 30 March 1950 in Holliston, Massachusetts, USA” – the Discogs bio sums up how I thought of John D’earth, illustrated by his fine 1992 album One Bright Glance, with John Abercrombie. So I was surprised to find him playing beautifully melodic, chamber-inflected free improv with Angela On The Arts. They are a trio: D’earth on trumpet, flugelhorn and percussion, Bonnie Gordon on viola and Michelle Oliva on bass clarinet and loops. On some tracks, they’re supplemented by guest musicians.

D’earth studied saxophone as a teenager with Boots Mussulli and, later, arranging with Thad Jones – he’s also a composer. He attended Harvard University and later moved to New York City. He’s worked with Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Gunter Hampel, Miles Davis/Quincy Jones at Montreux, Bennie Wallace, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield. He moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, in the mid-80s.

Jazz educator Doug Richards provides a telling encomium: “There are people who teach who … can do a very nice service to their students. And then there are a handful of … extraordinary musicians who are able to impart the essences to their charges and John is one of those… It’s often by osmosis … by kids picking up on your deepest intrinsic merits”. (There’s an excellent interview article here.)

It was the deployment of free improv that surprised me – not the melodic aspect, for D’earth has always been a melodist. The results resemble a kind of free improv version of Jimmy Giuffre’s The Train And The River trio – though I guess Giuffre’s own later work was such a version too! – with a bucolic feel.

With 16 tracks in the course of just under an hour, some are fairly brief – the opening Timbre, for instance, with beautifully woody bass clarinet, and a gorgeous blending of timbres. The acerbic Grounded, featuring electronic percussion, has a South Asian modality. Little House, with the addition of what sound like vibes, created – I assume – by electronic percussion, is a plangent performance. A rare delight!

Discography
Timbre; Escape; Obstinato; Subwoofer; Grounded; Within; Coda; Unsung; Fog; Black Coffee; Emergent; Willful/Soulful; Absence; Bird Of Paradise; Little House; Inside Again (56.50)
John D’earth (t, flh, f, pc); Bonnie Gordon (vla); Michelle Oliva (bcl), plus guests, on some tracks, Brian Caputo (elec pc); Kevin Eichenberger (b); Will Evans (t); Jack Sheehan (ss, as). Charlottesville, Virginia, January 2019.
Small World Records SWR 1903