Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ben Allison - Think Free (Palmetto, 2009)

Looking to move away from the subtle chamber jazz of previous albums, bassist and composer Ben Allison's new offering is a collaboration with Steve Cardenas on guitar, Shane Endsley on trumpet, Jenny Scheinman on violin and Rudy Royston on drums. While it's not really the instrumentation you would normally think of for a group that rocks, there is a palpable energy here that feeds the music and the musicians, and makes for powerful and interesting music. “Fred” opens the album and develops nicely into a majestic violin feature for Scheinman. “Platypus” is a powerful performance propelled by strong electric guitar and drums. “Broke” has a slower paced middle eastern lullaby feel featuring milder toned and "jazzy" electric guitar. Melancholy trumpet and violin are also present and make for unusual and interesting sound combination. “Kramer vs. Kramer vs. Godzilla” is a heavy sounding rockish tune skittish violin and guitar waves and airy trumpet accents. “Sleeping Giant” climaxes with a spitfire trumpet solo. “Peace Pipe” recasts an earlier Allison composition for guitar instead of kora and has some majestic trumpet. Guitar switches for acoustic to electric for some stinging accents as the group takes things out, building to a wonderful performance. “Green Al” brings things to a sweet and soulful conclusion and features excellent violin. This was a very exciting and consistently enjoyable album. Ben Allison is one of my favorite musicians and he does not disappoint, the new compositions are fun and memorable and the recasting of earlier compositions makes for a thoughtful evolution of his sound and improvisational conception.
Think Free - Palmetto Records

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