Friday, May 22, 2009

Solar Fire Trio - Hand to Mouth (Sky-Fi Industries CS)

Hey all. Graduating tomorrow so things are a bit frantic on this end, but I figured I'd throw up the reviews that were published over at Foxy Digitalis this week before things settle back down. The following five are all from there.

Formed in 2005, the Solar Fire Trio—consisting of tenor saxophonist Ray Dickaty, altoist Dave Jackson and drummer Steve Belger—have a modus operandi based on meshing free jazz with the “rebellious spirit of rock music.” What results really seems more in line with the “rebellious spirit” inherent in free jazz alone. Which isn’t to say that this tape doesn’t rock or roll; on the contrary, it does both exceptionally.

Opening with the Aylerian call to arms of “Babble,” the trio immediately proves themselves nimble and coherent improvisers. Dickaty’s tenor growls and honks forward while Jackson’s alto punctuates a driving counterpoint. Yet the key here is in the lone man out, Belger, and his immensely creative drum work. Never one to merely accompany, the percussionist is always at the head of the piece, helping to forge it from the ground up with energetic form. The title track’s opening, a solo by Berger, is patient and spatial before Jackson’s alto steps in with a snake charming melody, his airy tone floating about in wavering breathiness.

Yet the point here is not in the strength of their melodic work, which is perfectly capable and quite beautiful in parts, but in their abilities as a collective. There’s a continuous undercurrent of groove that keeps all members meshed toward a common end. With so few players present and only two types of instruments the sound is inevitably a spacious one, but the zephyr-like mobility on display is just as easily corralled into fits of tone, as on “Stony Ground.” With each line so apparent at all times though, it is just as easy to follow along with interest as it is to get caught in the maelstrom. And that is an achievement in its own right. If anything, the closing track title, “Savage Grace,” is a perfect descriptor.

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