Rich Halley 4 – The Wisdom of Rocks (2014)

Just like last year’s Crossing The Passes, Rich Halley’s latest album The Wisdom of Rocks draws its inspiration from Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains. In his brief remarks on the sleeve of the CD, Halley points out that the “wisdom” of the rock formations he noticed when hiking the mountain range comes from their perseverance over such a long period of time.

Halley is much that way, too: making records for over thirty years, now, the tenor saxophonist, composer and bandleader has been a witness to a lot of changes in music in general and jazz in particular, but Halley has held firm to his principles. He understands that jazz at its finest is about emotion and intuition, and using tradition as a jumping-off point, he dives headlong into the pool of freedom.

That’s been the plot for his quartet records, and his Rich Halley 4 group have long established some telepathic simpatico, a very together combo long comprising of Halley, trombonist Mike Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed and Rich’s son Carson on drums.

“The “Atoll,” “A Brief Note” and “Of Five And Sixes” are fine examples of the type of tunes that get themselves established early with tight, bop-inspired themes before launching into horn madness. Halley’s sax diction has always been appealingly colorful, forceful and going somewhere. Vlatkovich’s passages, which usually follow Halley’s, adds a contrast full of personality yet also adherent to the basic building blocks of jazz.

The rhythm section, as always, plays critical roles, too. “The Wisdom of Rocks, the titular song, relies on Reed’s walking groove to achieve liftoff, and Carson Halley retrofits a funk rhythm into modern jazz ditty “The Get-Go.” The three, two-minute numbers “Trip Through Turbulence,” “Faint Scattered Lights” and “Conversation in Blue” are group improvs, the first one wild, the second one somber and disembodied, and the last one framed around the blues.

Rangy but consistent in its mission, The Wisdom of Rocks is Rich Halley and his quartet showing no let-up from a recent string of substantial releases, in spite of their regularity.

The Wisdom of Rocks, by Pine Eagle Records, is now available for sale. Visit Rich Halley’s site for more info.

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,, 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
S. Victor Aaron