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Rocco John Iacovone (Photo : courtesy Unseen Rain Records)
There’s no telling where Rocco John Iacovone will go. The sax man studied under Lee Konitz and Sam Rivers. In the case of the latter, John has successfully taken the Rivers dictum (if they can’t understand it, go even further!) and whittled away at it, sanding it down, putting on a coat of varnish, to ultimately let his listeners alternately swoon and get excited. Embrace the Change (Unseen Rain Records) is more than a CD title. It’s good life advice.
In taking from the avant-garde, but making it accessible, John, whose alto and soprano saxes blow wild and free throughout, has fashioned a terrific one-stop that fills all your needs for melody, harmonics (or, in this case, shall we say harmolodics as taught to us by Ornette Coleman), interaction, composition, fiery hot soloing (check out Rich Rosenthal’s electric guitar!) and the bulwark of a rhythm section — double-bassist Francois Grillot and drummer Tom Cabrera — that not only keeps things kinetic but also anchors the avant and keeps things from getting out of hand.
Opening and closing with “Wings,” a post-bop humdinger that challenges our assumptions immediately, the highlights have to be “Dial Up,” an eight-minute plea to the heavens for assistance, and “72’s,” almost eleven minutes of pure disparate intentions, a cross-pollination of ideas from swing and bebop to fusion all in one over-reaching but successful track. You can add the extremely satisfying 9:52 “Tango” to the highlight reel.
Recorded in New Jersey, produced by Jack DeSalvo, Embrace the Change works because this particular change is still within earshot of the masses, if only said masses would just lighten up a bit and stretch their brains to the ferreting out of this kind of talent instead of having every musical morsel served to them on a silver platter. C’mon y’all! Up to the task?
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