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Aurora Borealis / Evolutions / What If The Moon Were Made Of Jazz. 62:08.
Rocco John Iacovone – as, ss, p; Ras Moshe Burnett – ts, flt, bells; Michael Lytle – b clt; Sana
Nagano – vln; Rich Rosenthal – g; Phil Sirois – b; Dalius Naujo, d; John Pietaro – perc. 12/26/2014,
New York City.
The passing of saxophonist Will Connell in 2014 was felt deeply throughout
New York’s jazz community of forward thinking players. Connell was probably
not well-known outside that small enclave. But his history was deep and he
was involved with the free jazz movement on both coasts. During the early 70s,
he moved to the West Coast and hooked up with Horace Tapscott’s Pan-African
People’s Arkestra as a copyist and player. But by the middle of the decade he had
moved back to New York and immersed himself into that city’s free jazz loft scene.
His skills as a copyist led to working with Ornette Coleman on revisions of “Skies
Of America”. He also worked and recorded with William Parker, Sam Rivers, Butch
Morris, Chico Hamilton and many others as both a copyist and player. As things
developed, he showed his generosity by working with players who were just emerging
in the 1990s/2000s. One of his last projects (in 2014) was as a member of a trio
organized by trombonist Steve Swell with drummer Reggie Nicholson. Sadly, he
passed away a month before he was to put on a week’s residency at The Stone.
Among the players he bestowed his generosity upon was saxophonist Rocco John
(Iacovone). John was one of the players Connell was going to feature in his Stone
residency. That residency went on despite Connell’s passing and became a tribute
to him. Peace And Love was recorded during it. But rather than a mournful cry, the
band’s set had a spirit of energy and affirmation of the existence of a good friend
and mentor. John had assembled an eight piece ensemble called the Improvisational
Composers Ensemble. That night, the band played three pieces by John all given
lengthy interpretations and featuring the players in solos. While some of the band
members have a bit of notoriety (including saxophonist Ras Moshe Burnett and
bass clarinetist Michael Lytle), the others are all lesser known but on the basis of this
recording deserve a hearing.
While all pieces have something to recommend them there are some truly notable
moments. “Evolutions” has a wistful melody beautifully etched by violinist Sana
Nagano. The piece also has tinges of those modal “Egyptian” melodies that Sun Ra
often used. “What if The Moon Were Made Out Of Jazz” at nearly 23 minutes goes
through several changes. The opening contains a fiery alto sax / drummer dialogue
between John and drummer Dalius Naujo. Throughout the set Naujo propels this
music as well as adding subtle shading during the quieter interludes. Things wind
down for a piano interlude by John before guitarist Rich Rosenthal enters for a
sustained interlude that seems like a quiet meditation on a departed friend. For this
listener it’s the highlight of the disc. Bassist Phil Sirois follows with a lovely solo before
the music ratchets up again for a fiery solo by Burnett, a wonderful solo by violinist
Sana Nagano and conclusion. The entire set comes together to work as a fitting tribute
to a man who had a lot more influence on the New York scene that most people
realize. And John is to be credited for organizing this wonderful tribute. Those who
are curious should seek out the music of Connell, Rocco John and the rest of these
players. – Robert Iannapollo
PEACE AND LOVE Available HERE at bandcamp
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