Despite the low-key instrumentation — two reeds, one guitar — and predominantly slow tempi, this disc offers new rewards on every spin. The secret is a perfect balance of arranged and free material, and a compositional approach to even the free-est of it. Synchronized entrances and exits and unison themes alternate with collective improv and a cappella arias all around. The writing gives each tune its own character — bebop romps (“Start To Finish,” “Thriftshopping”), South American folk tune (“Lilanto del Indio”), mysterioso Middle Eastern ballad (“Queen of Ra”). Guitarist Garrison Fewell’s “X-Ray Vision” could be “The Man I Love” as arranged and reharmonized by Mingus, with its shift from “standard” chord progression to chordless ambiguity. Charlie Kohlhase’s “Consolation Cake” is built like a Steve Lacy tune, with a repeated off-kilter descending phrase, before taking off into group improv. Even the tempo-less “Floating,” which begins with a tart little ascending interval from Fewell, gradually collects itself as the three players pass the motive around and build on it. Kohlhase and John Tchicai sometimes double up on tenor sax, at other times split between tenor and alto, or alto sax and bass clarinet, and Kohlhase gets a couple of good workouts on baritone. Tchicai, the grand master here at age 64, even gets to sing a bit.
John Tchicai + Charlie Kohlhase + Garrison Fewell | April 14, 8 pm | Brookline Tai-Chi, 1615 Beacon St, Brookline | 617.277.2975
On the Web
John Tchicai: http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/~jomnamo/
Charlie Kohlhase: http://www.charliekohlhase.com/
Garrison Fewell: http://www.garrisonfewell.com/