Published Apr 27, 2016Welcome to drummer/composer Nick Fraser's Starer, where a phasing bass/cello mixed-meter ostinato is commented upon by spiky sticks and answered by an oriental-influenced soprano sax line and solo. His music is both inviting and challenging, and it's played by superb musicians: Andrew Downing on cello, Rob Clutton on bass and NYC ringer, saxophonist Tony Malaby.
The group is dedicated to realizing and expanding upon Fraser's vision, a series of what he titles sketches, more shared starting points for examination and expansion than full-blown compositions. They are the better for this approach, too; Downing and Clutton root the pieces with their parts, then depart and return freely, giving the tunes a kind of free coherence. "Sketch #26" begins with a compelling bottom-end motif joined by a quick ornamented tenor line. The tune's 1:53 brevity is filled out with a kind of Balkan blow-down, Malaby's screaming sax sounding intense and verging on unhinged.
Tricky time signature shifts are the group's bread and butter. Witness "Starer," which is held together by the strings' repetition of the melody while Malaby launches into his impassioned solo. Gradually, the strings loosen their grip on the line, creating a darting web to act as a counterpoint. Throughout, Fraser's drums are fully engaged, not in accompanying his band mates but in bringing percussive sonorities to the melodic flow of ideas. Fraser's conception is utterly musical, highly personal and sonically creative. Starer is highly recommended; for a taste, check out the "Starer" video. (Independent)