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Return Of The New Thing - Traque

Steven Loewy, All Music Guide

This is the group Return of the New Things second recording, the first being issued several years earlier on the Leo label.
Those who appreciate the high quality of these unabashedly uncompromising pieces will be unconcerned that the so-called "New Thing" has been around continuously for decades at the time of these sessions, and instead focus on the music, not the semantics.

Dan Warburton, who plays piano and violin for the quartet and also wrote the liner notes (and who is better known for his exemplary work as a journalist), calls the genre of performance "improvised free jazz," but whatever it is called the results enthrall. Those familiar with the quirky, staccato-infused, iconoclastic blowing of Jean-Luc Guionnet will recognize his primitive sound from the get-go, as his pre-bop snarls and anti-bop phrasing are riddled with a strained emotional fervor.

There are times, particularly on the long opening track when the ghost of Albert Ayler and the shadow of Cecil Taylor raise their heads. That these comparisons can even be made is a tribute to some incredible finger work from Warburton who is the "real" thing on his primary instrument, the piano.

Listeners accustomed to the (mostly) European post-Coltrane embrace of free improvisation should be taken by the harsh divergences that run throughout: the altered tempos on "Traque," the hard-hitting exclamations on "Scent," and the occasional changes in volume that sometimes seem contrived. Warburton's powerful presence is particularly strong on "Traque," where he is permitted to stretch at length.

There appears to be a conscious effort to build slowly (and sometimes not so slowly), with an evolutionary consistency throughout. Much time is allotted to solos, and they are uniformly superb, with a special nod to Warburton's CT-like clusters that at their best come across like meteor showers, and to Guionnet's weird but enticing disjointedness.

Somehow it all works remarkably well though as is so often the case those not accustomed to "free" improvisation will find this music very abstract and difficult to follow.
For the rest of us, well, how about a glass of champagne?