Forgotten series: Groundtruther – Latitude (2004)

by Mark Saleski

Drummer Bobby Previte and bassist Charlie Hunter got together to record some completely improvised music. The twist was that they rotated in a different third player for each recording in the trilogy entitled “Latitude, Longitude, Attitude.” The project was named Groundtruther. For the first installment, the third member was saxophonist Greg Osby.

This was not ‘jazz’ in the usual sense, but instead a long set of improvised material. As the liner notes said: “What you hear is played 99% live..and 100% improvised.”

First, let’s get to the instrumentation. Bobby Previte on drums and electronics. Charlie Hunter on 8 String Guitar and Osby on alto saxophone.

There is no way to describe the general approach used on this album beyond saying that first an idea is presented and then the group runs with it. On “Antarctic Circle,” for instance, Greg Osby begins with with ascending figures that are capped by a single, echo-chambered note (and oh my, I must say that Osby’s tone here is just gorgeous … even the valve clicks). Then an edgy call and response begins with his sax and some disturbing sampled sax lines played in the background. Charlie Hunter drops ambient guitar scrapings here and there as Previte slowly brings in percussion. The opening “North Pole” starts with a smudgy sampled chord that Hunter plays a few film-noir notes over. Later on Osby comes in playing some ‘phoned in’ (as in, it sounds like he’s playing them over a telephone) saxophone as Previte provides a little structure with some cymbal work.

With this set of musicians, there just has to be some funk goin’ on. That comes with “Arctic Circle”, where all three guys lean into it. I’m always amazed to hear Charlie Hunter laying down the low end groove while playing funky chord fragments on top. It’s inhuman.

Bobby Previte makes great use of electronics on this record, managing to keep everything sounding organic despite heavy use of the sampler — and I swear I hear a sample of Squarepusher on “Tropic Of Cancer.”

I’d highly recommend Latitude to anybody who is curious about creative improvised music but might have been put off by the “skronk-fests” they’ve heard. If that’s you, I can’t guarantee that you’ll ‘get’ all of this … but it will get you thinking.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.