Nick Fraser Towns and Villages

Nick Fraser Towns and Villages
8
The lifeblood of free jazz can be found in musicians' efforts to push beyond existing habits and practices. They court the danger of the unknown and unpredictable. To that end, drummer Nick Fraser decided to cross swords with NYC free jazz saxophone titan Tony Malaby. The result is an album of strong playing by engaged players matching wits in real time, weaving their sounds together to make a "whole cloth," not separate threads. Group cohesion is one of the strongest qualities of the quartet's music; how cellist Andrew Downing and bassist Rob Clutton synch up with Fraser's tight looseness and Malaby's sinuous motion is a marvel. From the knotty theme of "Sketch #10" to the Ayler-ish, folk song-y "Sketch #12," they play as one — a kind of four-armed jazz octopus, each limb moving separately, together. Three of the 12 tracks are group improvisations named after Canadian towns: "Prescott," "Spencerville" and "Hundred Mile House." Malaby's tenor and soprano saxes are rich and resonant throughout, but Fraser's drums could have been a bit more present in the mix for added punch. Still, this is outstanding music making from the first note to the last. (Barnyard)