The Fringe used to write tunes, some of which are remembered fondly ("To the Bridge," "Ides," "Me and the Ma") and played a few choice covers (Archie Shepp's "Keep Your Heart Right" was a favorite). But after a while the tunes disappeared. The band wanted to keep themselves — and the music — on edge. Despite the spontaneity of their approach, the music was surprisingly accessible. Garzone implied scales and chord changes with his runs of 8ths and 16ths, Gullotti's "pulse" was equally articulate, and Lockwood's beautiful tone and accuracy of pitch were never in doubt. All of which prepared you for those indefinable hurricanes of sound that were bigger than any single player.
At this point, as Whitney Balliett said of Ornette Coleman, the band are improvising not on tunes or changes, but on themselves. Or as Garzone tells Downbeat magazine in the June issue, they're concentrating on "the rhythm of the moment." Maybe that's why — even after 40 years — they continue to surprise and inspire. And they continue to set a standard for all of jazz — not just the avant-garde — of what this music is, and what it can be. ^
The Fringe play every Monday night at the Lily Pad, 1353 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, starting at 10.
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