Carlton / Pass / MacPherson / Valenti: Undeniable

Chordless trumpet, alto, bass and drums quartet brings conviction and freshness to the example of Ornette Coleman and 1960s free jazz

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In these days of bewildering abundance it’s hard to pick out distinctive voices, but this quartet, with its unusually pertinent press release’s references to the likes of Ornette Coleman, Paul Motian and Tomasz Stanko, goes about its business with a kind of distinction which ensures that the late Dennis Gonzalez, not least in his groups with Charles Brackeen, also serves as a rarefied point of reference.

“Freebop” is a definer as misused and abused as any other these days, but in the case of MacPherson’s Same Place, Same Time it’s apt because it pinpoints the tight-yet-slightly-loose feeling the group conjures up. Carlton’s trumpet understatement is ripe in the best sense of the term, and for these ears at least shot through with the air of a musician who knows what to leave out, while MacPherson’s fractiousness on alto sax has covert echoes of the late Marion Brown.

Carlton’s Free The Five catches MacPherson in reflective mode and further more highlights a narrative implicit in this group’s work, namely one of busy rhythmic underpinning contrasting nicely with relatively stately, understated solo work. The tension this sets up – never fraught, always cohesive – draws this listener in, and with an ear as jaded as mine that’s no mean feat in itself.

More Light opens with Pass evoking Charlie Haden’s spirit, but happily without venturing down the path of mere reproduction. The piece is reflective yet marked by a kind of muted fire, with horn unisons amounting to a kind of chorale, and dodges the time-honoured theme-solos-theme format with no little aplomb.

Discography
Undeniable; Same Place Same Time; Junction; More Light; Free The Five; Rice Bunny; Prelude; Walyunga (Part 1); Walyunga (Part 2) (51.48)
Jessica Carlton (t); Alana MacPherson (as); Katee Pass (b); Talya Valenti (d). Loop Studios, unknown location, 12 and 13 August 2021.
Independent – carltonmacphersonpassvalenti.bandcamp.com