WHAT WE LIVE - Quintet for a Day
[New World Records,]

New jazz is pulsing with fresh blood, just waiting to be discovered. While these two artists may not exactly be young [they're not exactly old, either], their talent is vibrant, fresh and represents everything that an adventurous jazz record should possess.

Pianist Denman Maroney is someone whom I've come across is various recordings over the years. His work with Tambastics [self titled record on Music & Arts] speaks volumes of the way contemporary music and jazz melt into one. His style of playing is referred to as hyperpiano, which involves placing various objects [copper bars, brass bowls, etc.] on the strings of the piano and playing the instrument using one hand on the keys, and the other one stroking the strings. If this sounds familiar, that's because it has been done before. Keith Tippett has been known to place various objects [pebbles, wooden blocks] on strings of his piano and playing extended passages on the strings and the keys. In Maroney's case, the sound is more precise and much cleaner. His playing doesn't resemble the metal ticking of a large clock, which is sometimes the case with Tippett. Individual chords are cleanly articulated and his sense of adventure precedes any sense of urgency in his playing. What I love most about this record is the amount of space given over to Maroney's quintet. Dave Ballou's trumpet playing hits the high register and he shows off his soloing style on a few occasions. Ned Rothenberg alto sax and bass clarinet work is rather subdued [maybe his part was just written this way?]. I'm most excited about the fantastic rhythm section of bassist Mark Dresser [who has worked with Maroney on a number of occasions] and percussionist Kevin Norton. There are no forceful or pulsating moments here. Rather, both players show their keen ear for minute details [especially Norton on his vibraphone]. "Fluxations" proves that teamwork is the key in making a good record into an unbelievable one.

What We Live is a trio that was formed during the mid 90's in order to present new forms of improvisation to the world. Although they have recorded on a number of occasions prior [including three fine records for Black Saint "Never Was" and "What We Live Fo(u)r"], this release most resembles another exceptional record they penned in the late 90's, "Trumpets". Similarly to that record, two exceptional trumpet players Wadada Leo Smith and Dave Douglas - join the trio, which is made up of bassist Lisle Ellis, saxophonist Lawrence Ochs and Donald Robinson on percussion. The welcome change from "Trumpets" is that here, both trumpet players are heard on all tracks, rather than taking turns and appearing on alternate pieces. This is a large dose of awe inspiring music, where everything moves in set patterns, where all players have a higher understanding of where this collective music needs to go. The highlight is the duel soloing of both Smith and Douglas. The higher range glory of their trumpets makes for one really sit and take listen. Lisle Ellis' bass playing moves proceedings along at an even pace. Lawrence Ochs has some fine moments on his tenor and I especially love the way his soprano swerves its way around the two trumpeters. Consider "Quintet for a Day" a record that breathes a life all of its own. Another fine release from a trio whose lifeline seems to be cut too short.

Tom Sekowski

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