Rich Halley 4 – Back From Beyond (2012)

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The name changed a little bit, but not the lineup: the Rich Halley 4 is the same Rich Halley Quartet who last year gave us the stunning Requiem For A Pit Viper, one of the very best out-jazz releases of last year. Saxophonist and flautist Rich Halley once again leads his group into a set of studio-recorded originals that tease the frontiers of acoustic jazz whilst still making glances back at the jazz that used to be at the cutting edge.

With a band of strong rapport from bassist Clyde Reed, drummer Carson Halley and trombonist Mike Vlatkovich backing him, the ensemble returns to record another set of all-originals, Back From Beyond. On it, you’ll here all of what have become hallmarks of this combo: Halley’s combustible, colorful but always in control sax; Vlatkovich’s Roswell Rudd’-like magnificent flair; Reed’s ample and undulating bass, and son Carson Halley’s knotty, nuanced timekeeping.

There’s no mistaken that Back From Beyond comes from the same good group of guys who gave us Requiem, but the new one pulls back marginally from the no-holds-barred thrill ride of the prior one. Whatever slight loss there is in unpredictability is a gain in focus and deeper exploration of ideas, and there’s no letting off the level of musicianship. In Halley fashion, his compositions never stand still, often moving from on spot to another, and then another, sometimes not returning to places already visited.

“Spuds” walks the fine dividing line between advanced bop and avant garde, with Halley and Vlatkovich skillfully weaving around the open-ended harmony of the song alongside Reed, who keeps things anchored in an elliptical way. “Section Three” registers as a standout, because of the resolute groove articulated by Carson Halley in the opening head, followed by the band creating a lot of room to maneuver improvisations over that, the peak moment occurring when both Halley and Vlatkovich engage in a very lively conversation. The boys get downright funky on “Broken Ground” keyed by Vlatkovich’s in-the-pocket solo after which the band begins the tear down the groove and break down into some free-form expressions. The episodic “Solunum” is tethered to a dark mood, amplified when Reed bows his bass and Halley moves over to a spartan, wooden flute. “Reorbiting – for Sun Ra” makes explicit Halley’s affection for Ra’s music, a break from all-out blowing and a studious display of the intricate interplay of the four players.

Michael Coyle’s liner notes do the job of getting underneath these tracks without rambling overlong about it, and his remarks make a useful companion to the music. That said, you don’t need to read them to appreciate what Rich Halley and his cohorts are puttin’ down, just open ears. The Rich Halley 4 do a lot of explaining themselves with their instruments, and though Requiem For A Pit Viper remains the gold standard for this ensemble, they aren’t exactly resting on their laurels for Back From Beyond.

Back From Beyond was released earlier this year on Pine Eagle Records and is available for sale on CD Baby.Visit Rich Halley’s website for more info.

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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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