The Sun Spits Cherries
Hopscotch / Hop4
Chris Jonas (soprano sax), Joe Fiedler (tenor trombone), Chris Washburne (bass trombone), Andrew Barker (percussion)
Soprano sax, two trombones and percussion; some odd instrumental combinations are born of necessity, others by design. This seems to be a case of the latter, with Jonas writing punchy, rhythmic structures which take advantage of and, to some extent, smoothe out this strange line-up.
The leader’s compositions dispense with head-solos-head arrangements and instead use fragmented sections which are interspersed with solos. He runs a full gamut of textural possibilities, from the opening horn stabs right through thick chording to atonal wails. His compositions often take unexpected right-turns, the quartet dropping into some composed passage which bears only a tangential relation to what’s gone before.
There are, however, no po-mo genre pastiches here. Jonas’s style is very much an intersection of the jazz and classical traditions, with results which can be surprisingly reminiscent of Stravinsky. This is Stravinsky without the tunes, however, and if these pieces use harmonic structures then the soloists certainly ignore them or relate to them only tangentially. Fiedler and Washburne both make very convincing contributions, sometimes squarking and blarting, following a more conventional line at others.
Jonas is a pretty cool soloist too, preferring the mercurial flow of Braxton to textural or pseudo-emotional outbursts. Sometimes his playing sounds merely facilitous, but not too frequently: more often, what seemed at first like noodling turns out to have a firm purpose. This makes him an impressive and unusual player in the free jazz world, what with so much emphasis placed these days on high-octane energy music revivalists.
This record documents some fascinating compositional work from Jonas, and some great ensemble playing from all concerned. It’ll be a little chilly for some tastes, no doubt, but there are plenty of unexpected angles and weird departures here for those willing to give it a listen. More like classical music than jazz, it’s really a project in what used to be called the Third Stream. Well worth checking out. Richard Cochrane