AERCINE (Drimala Records, DR 02-347-06)
Stunning technique, a never hiding sense of beauty and careful research. That\'s how I describe the extremely pleasant improvisation of \"Aercine\", a
quintet composed of the Sorgen-Rust-Stevens Trio plus Herb Robertson and Mark Feldman. This music can\'t be correctly defined, even if by my standards it could be adjacent to jazz - but I would not do the musicians any favour
using this term. I try and recognize - most of all - chamber music influences; the interplay among these fellows is absolutely flawless and the first listen makes me think about scores and notated segments but no - this
is only a perfect kind of self-regulating freedom and, probably, profound intuitive reasoning over each other\'s suggestion. That means striving towards perfection, something that Michael, Herb, Mark, Harvey Sorgen on
drums and Steven Rust on bass have managed to achieve - almost completely.
Hats off to all of them.
Jazz Review by Ted Kane
As we head away from a very proud avant garde jazz and towards a neutered entity called improvisational music, it is refreshing to hear an album of freely improvised music so deeply rooted in the jazz tradition as this eponymous release from Aercine. These guys don\'t exactly play the blues, but they do play with them. These musicians seem to understand that experimentation is a means to an end, not a substitute for a thorough understanding of the jazz dialectic; that, in other words, no matter how far out there you go, it still don\'t mean a thing if you ain\'t got that swing. Crucially, they also know that once you\'ve established that swing, it\'s ok to merely imply it.
There\'s a lot here beside the jazz, and I mean Obeside\' as in next to as opposed to instead of. Not unlike the late Don Cherry or the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Aercine use jazz as their methodology for exploring harmonic ideas from 20th century classical music and other sources outside of mainstream jazz. Dig, if you will, Mark Feldman\'s bluesy violin solo on the group\'s theme song, with its clever quote of the famous basson line from \"Le Sacre du printemps\".
As I say, this music is very advanced harmonically. You don\'t doubt that pianist Michael Jefry Sevens knows his serialism tedious because he also knows his Monkisms. Likewise, trumpeter Herb Robertson\'s playing contains echoes of Cherry, Don Ayler, and Lester Bowie and also of Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis. Bassist Steve Rust and Drummer Harvey Sorgen are supple enough to accommodate whatever the rest of the group throws at them, knowing when to play right on the beat, when to take a little bit off of it, and when to deconstruct it altogether.
Not every volume of improvisational music wants or deserves to be called jazz. This album does, clearly embracing the tradition as it advances it in its own unique way. At times they find a groove, and even when they are at their most abstract there seems to be a vestige of one present. Combining elements from avant garde classical and free jazz with the blues and gypsy violin, Aercine creates a unique and deep jazz experience.
Downtown Music Gallery -- Aercine (Drimala Records 347-06)
This all-star quintet has been together for quite a
while in different permutations, including an early effort with Dave Douglas and Joe Fonda called the Mosaic Sextet (reissued on GM), plus some half dozen different releases with varying personnel on Leo. Commencing with some a dark piano intro, the rest of the quintet soon float in with the ever-incredible clarion trumpet of Herb Robertson
and ghost-like violin swirls of Mark Feldman blend with the quirky rhythm team fragments. On \"The Shokoe Slip\", Herb is off on one his astounding high flying trumpet solos pushed by the propulsive start and stop rhythm team work, then its Michael\'s turn to display his formidable pianistics with another marvelous solo, followed by another amazing solo from the hottest violinist in town - Mark Feldman. Bassist Steve Rust, whom I am not familiar with, and Harvey
Sorgen are splendid throughout, consistently spinning, listening, digging in, balancing and pushing all the soloists. Although, this music is completely improvised, there is an invisible thread, a connection of spirits that runs throughout - five outstanding musicians working together and creating a magical web around and
between each other. Everyone plays acoustically and the production by Harvey and Steve is superb, warm, clear and perfect. Without any doubt, one of this month\'s (year\'s?) best. CD release!
All About Jazz
Part of the under-appreciated generation of expressive improvisers, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, 52, is one of those musicians who plied his craft in the fallow years between the 1960s heyday of experimental jazz and before the current free music up-tick.
Now co-leader of the peripatetic Fonda-Stevens bands with bassist Joe Fonda, Stevens is a committed, no-holds-barred improviser. His technically imposing stylings draw as much -- if not more -- from the severe formalism of early modern classical composers as the jazz tradition. Both AERCINE, a studio quintet effort, and THE SURVIVOR\'S SUITE, a live solo disc, are distinctive examples of his art. Although both are technically impressive, on scrupulous analysis it seems that his monochromic approach often needs the supplemental colors of other, brighter instruments to be put in bolder relief.
That\'s why the quintet session is so impressive. Another reason is that on the CD Stevens\' trio, filled out by drummer Harvey Sorgen -- who also produced and mastered the discs -- and bassist Steve Rust, is joined by an usual front line. Violinist Mark Feldman has worked in every medium from Nashville studios to John Zorn\'s formal compositions, while trumpeter Herb Robertson has been a favorite brassman for leaders ranging from altoist Tim Berne to bassist Barry Guy. Although all the music is completely improvised it also phases in references from impressionism and Eastern European airs on one hand and hard bop and the Cool school at other times. Sometimes, in fact, Stevens\' touch appears to be a weird amalgam of Lennie Tristano\'s and Dave Burrell\'s. Then on something like \"The Shokoe Slip\" he will turn pure hard bopper, complete with double-timed key clipping. Brassy plunger work from Robertson and romantic triple and double stopping from Feldman in the virtuosoic Jascha Heifetz tradition mute the harsh keyboarding until the entire tune explodes into high pitched cacophony. Alternately, \"As I Was Saying\" features dark, fine-boned pianisms, as Stevens ranges all over the tune with underscored cadenzas of altered fantasias. Rust and Sorgen stick to straight jazz time, while the trumpeter produces brassy lip farts and the violinist shapely, wiggling mellow sweeps. There\'s \"Roundup\", which seems to have escaped from an upscale roadhouse, situated midway between the Red Neck and Urban parts of a Southern city.
With a theme that sounds itchingly familiar, Stevens tries out some rollicking modern barrelhouse piano that mixes with some bleached Jungle stylings from Robertson. The brassman\'s muted grace notes then comment on Feldman\'s clear, legato, but very speedy, runs. Robertson appears to be working the inside of his valves with buzzing shakes and ascending runs, while the fiddler slides out notes so sizzlingly quick and so sharp that he sometimes goes flat as he touches many strings at once. The drummer contributes press rolls, with the final ferment built up with triple-time, tremolo piano pounding. By that point everyone is in such a state that someone shouts out a loud \"gee haw!\". Now when\'s the last time you heard that on an improv CD? Elsewhere, romantic themes share space with Balkan echoes; banjo-like plucks from fiddle meet high-pitched almost celeste-like sound from the piano; and when Robertson sounds out what could be traditional muted Miles-like lines, bassman Rust Rust follows along as a dependable Paul Chambers.