Search – Today Is Tomorrow (2009)

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by Pico

Every enterprise that sets lofty goals for itself should have a yardstick for success and put forth a mission statement. You’ve probably been taught this in your high school or college business class. The creative music combo from Brooklyn, NY called Search has one. It goes like this:

Search sets out to travel the globe spreading a message of peace, unity and awareness through the activation of vibration, the fundamental element of life.

That might sound more like a mission statement for peace activists or an evangelical organization, but the message is being delivered by the universal language of music, instead of words. As I see it, the peace comes from relaxed, loose way they play their music; the unity is the unifying element of their sound, which appeals to human instinct instead of mechanical convention; and the awareness could well refer to how in tune each musician is to each other.

Search just recently released their debut album Today Is Tomorrow as the first recorded step in achieving their mission, but the story started some ten years earlier. That’s when RJ Avallone (trumpet, wooden flute) met Matthew Maley (tenor sax, clarinet) at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston and started playing and creating music together. Their paths have stayed together on and off through stints playing for the likes of McCoy Tyner, Joe Lovano, Danilo Perez and Clark Terry before rejoining to form Search in 2006. While these guys remain to the two principal players in the group, they’ve added seasoned talent in the form of David Moss (acoustic bass) and guest drummer Bryson Kern to round out this non-chordal quartet.

Before solidifying their sound and documenting it to tape (so to speak), Search spent a couple of years hanging out with someone who wrote the book on creative jazz: Mr. Ornette Coleman. Coleman soon began to prod this nascent group repeatedly to record an album. As Avallone and Maley came to realize, when the Godfather of free jazz thinks you should make a record, you just might oughta do it.

Today Is Tomorrow, as you might expect, follows in the fine tradition of Ornette. They take his innovative ideas of rootless compositions and group improvision and add a few hallmarks of their own. The two leaders never, ever appear to be soloing to reach a certain point in a song; each makes their statements, however long or short it takes, hands off to the other, and often it gets handed right back. Maley and Avallone engage in conversation with each other in the natural flow and spontaneity of talk. As a result, seven of the ten tunes run within five or six minutes and thus don’t risk boring listeners with inconsequential blowing.

This collection of tunes, all written by either Maley and/or Avallone, were recorded live in the studio with few takes. The first one, “Blues If It Is” was done in one. And it was beautifully done. The theme is stated by both in the beginning without any time keeping, but with the cadence and flow of human speech. Avallone’s trumpet playing is sensitive and fervent all at once. Maley succeeds him with a tenor sax that plays traditionally without traditional notes. Throughout it all Moss and Kern follow down the meandering path set by the leaders, navigating through the ever-changing tempo and tonal center effortlessly.

“Herds” is a creative clash of the tonal and atonal. Long chords played over a brooding bass line get broken up repeatedly by minor outbursts, like a flock of birds scattering at the sudden appearance of a potential predator.

The slow, contemplative pace that starts “Uncivil Disobedience” goes from half time to double time without the main protagonists losing control. “Intentions” is another bass-driven tune, sticking closer to bop conventions of head/solos/head than it does harmolodics, but the collective improvision rules of Coleman still apply in the solo section. The series of contemplations that make up “Next” allow both Maley and Avallone to stretch out slowly and express themselves in total freedom.

The only overdub of the entire album is Avallone’s wooden flute fluttering behind the thematic lines in “Joujouka,” intended to set the scene of this Morrocon village of a tribe of Sufi trance musicians. “The Laws Of Gravity” does its best to break the laws of standard harmonic structure. This track is probably the closest they get to Coleman’s groundbreaking Atlantic Records sides, with Avallone even phrasing himself a bit like a young Don Cherry.

The dirge-like “Milena” serves as a peaceful respite before heading into the relatively brief “Breathe.” This cut contains such a nice little groove by Moss and Kern headlined by a strong melody and some fine interaction between the horn players; it could have easily gone on for ten minutes and not wear out. “Day Terrors/It’s Alright Now” presents a dichotomy of moods: the frenetic pulse of Moss’ bass in the first part, followed by the serenity of the latter part.

So, you know I liked what these cats were putting down on Today Is Tomorrow. More importantly, what did Mr. Coleman think of the record he pushed Search to make? “It’s natural music and it swings – sounds like you guys are on the case,” he said. If it’s good enough for Ornette, it oughta be good enough for anyone who listens to jazz with an open mind.

Visit Search’s website here.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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