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Rob Brown Ensemble – Crown Trunk Root Funk (2008)

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A Darker Shade Of Blue

Label: Aum Fidelity, Catalog ID: AUM 044CD
Barcode : 0642623304426
Format: CD, Album, Released: 2008; Country: USA; Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at MPI Studio, Manhattan on February 15, 2007. Mixed at Systems Two Studio, Brooklyn on October 9, 2007

Note:

“Rob Brown is an awesome alto saxophonist, a mercurial improviser who is perpetually inventive. AUM Fidelity has recorded him many times over the years as a foundation member of the principal groups of William Parker, with whom he has shared a musical relationship for over 20 years. Brown has also revealed himself to be a very gifted composer and group leader. This particular ensemble was first brought together for a performance at the 2006 Vision Festival. It was deemed essential that this group be brought into the studio to make an album.

A focus of Crown Trunk Root Funk is deep grooves, with brightness and openings provided by Brown’s gorgeous, indelible melodies and the highly exploratory work of this extraordinary band. Parker provides the root bass, and drummer Gerald Cleaver (who has worked extensively with Matthew Shipp, Roscoe Mitchell, Joe Morris, and Mat Maneri) brings his supremely sensitive musicality and Detroit-bred funk. Keyboardist and fellow Detroit native Craig Taborn (whose collaborative pedigree spans Tim Berne, James Carter, Carl Craig, Roscoe Mitchell, Chris Potter, Susie Ibarra, and Meat Beat Manifesto) is likewise endlessly inventive within this tremendously rewarding sonic ecosystem. We are well proud to present our first album featuring Rob Brown as leader.”

-Aum Fidelity

Review:

After its successful premier at the 2006 Vision Festival, alto saxophonist Rob Brown took his newest ensemble into the studio to record Crown Trunk Root Funk, his first recording as a leader for AUM Fidelity. A formidable blend of funky abstraction, angular post-bop and dark impressionism, it offers an expansive view of Brown’s adventurous aesthetic.

A two decade plus veteran of New York City’s Downtown scene, Brown employs three of today’s most in-demand sidemen in this quartet. Bandleader, composer and bassist William Parker shares a performing history with Brown dating back twenty years. Drummer Gerald Cleaver has been a regular collaborator of Brown’s recently, while pianist Craig Taborn is relatively new to Brown’s oeuvre, playing with him for the first time in 2006.

Brown’s acerbic alto takes center stage over the course of these roiling, intensely rhythmic tunes, with Taborn’s jagged cadences offering reliable support. Eschewing token traditionalism, Taborn avoids conventional comping, liberally unspooling brittle linear phrases under Brown’s circuitous salvos, as on the thorny “Lifeboat.” Working in tandem, Brown and Taborn meander through the shadowy “Ghost Dog,” weaving through labyrinthine passages driven by a percolating groove and sinewy bass ostinato.

Longstanding partners, Taborn and Cleaver unveil their intuitive rapport on “Sonic Ecosystem,” the album’s sole electronic piece. Glitchy hums emanate from lo-fi electronics as Taborn accents undulating sine waves with pointillist piano phrases, while Cleaver quietly responds with scintillating tones. Sporadically interrupted by a plangent unison theme from Brown’s plaintive alto and Parker’s bowed bass, their conversation continues unabated.

Clocking countless studio hours together, Taborn, Parker and Cleaver are frequent rhythm section companions. Whether locking into the slow burn vamp of “Rocking Horse” or navigating shifting meters on the knotty post-bop of “Clearly Speaking,” they demonstrate their affable interplay with fluid invention.

Eclipsing structural traditions, Brown spars with Cleaver on the first half of “Exuberance,” discharging pithy, fragmentary spirals as Cleaver throttles his kit with unfettered abandon before the entire group reconvenes.

Despite the album’s overall focus on rhythm, Brown reveals a soulful, impressionistic side on “World’s Spinning,” closing the record with stark, yearning lyricism.

With over a dozen albums to his credit, Crown Trunk Root Funk is one of Brown’s most engaging.

By
TROY COLLINS, Published: March 5, 2008 (AAJ)

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