Published Feb 05, 2013As a sideman, Ben Goldberg has long been a presence that is difficult to miss. His is an assertive voice on the clarinet that can cast a long shadow across an ensemble. This is particularly true when the contra-alto clarinet is his voice, because Goldberg is a strong musical personality that requires equally strong supporting players to keep up with his improvisational chops, even when he's not in charge.
With Unfold Ordinary Mind, he is clearly at the helm of aggressive, unflinching personalities in the mould of Nels Cline on guitar, Ellery Eskelin and Rob Sudduth on tenor saxophone, and Ches Smith on drums. Each one is a creative force to contend with. Collectively, they make for a terrifying band. The result is a set of relatively straight-ahead tunes that careen and churn with blistering intensity and a near telepathic ability to switch gears between playing with and against each other. This is music that exercises enormous restraint at times, but also knows when to open the floodgates for unrestrained sonic bliss.
This raw display of group responsiveness is particularly evident in the short, textural tracks of "Lone" and "I Miss The SLA," but it's the longer constructions of "Elliptical," "Parallelogram" and "Steamwinder" that allow for a solid groove to form around this incredible band. The relative simplicity of Ben Goldberg's compositions leaves plenty of open space for this particular ensemble to dig into the guts of the sound and rock with intent. (BAG Music Productions)