Free Fall


Free Fall takes its moniker from the 1962 album of the same name by the Jimmy Giuffre Trio, a jazz band whose influence has grown steadily over the years, although in its heyday (1961-63) the trio registered very little in the way of popular or critical acclaim. Free Fall -- consisting of Chicago-based saxophonist, and recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" Award, Ken Vandermark, as well as Norwegians Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and Håvard Wiik on acoustic bass and piano, respectively -- mirrors the approach of Giuffre's threesome, delivering probing, cerebral jazz played, for the most part, at low volume, with the delicacy of a classical chamber-music group.

Whereas some "outside" musics can sometimes test a listener's threshold of annoyance via loudness and dissonance, the members of Free Fall, with their attention to detail and close interaction with each other, take an opposing tack: By playing quietly, the musicians compel one to listen more intently, their subtlety requiring a more concentrated level of attention. Vandermark's clarinets have a resonant, woody tone, almost vocal in their expressiveness, whether agitated (as on the title track) or serenely plaintive (the silky, Paul Desmond-esque "Half Fast Soon," which flickers like a candle flame in a gentle breeze). Flaten's bass has a gently buoyant, ample tone capable of both solid, cool-cat swing ("Emergency") and abstract, three-way exchanges ("Hopscotch"). Wiik is the straightest arrow here -- his discreet, lyrical piano serves as the stable, earthy foundation for Vandermark's and Flaten's explorations.

Furnaceis an inspired example of how intense, meticulous introspection can be possessed of quiet, focused passion, and how "extreme" or très avant sounds need not be clamorous to make their point.

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