Quite recently I happened to hear all three participants of the Sumari project when I reviewed the JULIE album by the Julie Lyon Quintet. On JULIE their instrumental skill drew attention to these musicians. But it’s one thing to accompany a vocalist in the performance of standards, and quite another to create your own project. We hear quite different music on Sumari and it’s reinforced by a spiritual component common to all participants. To illustrate this thesis, let us remember the extraordinary personality of Jane Roberts. This American writer would fall into a trance and channeled an otherworldly entity named Seth (basically, a name in Egyptian mythology). Roberts outlined Seth’s discourses in “Seth Speaks” and in a number of subsequent books which were of an ethical and metaphysical nature aimed at enhancing the capacity of human self-knowledge. Many years ago, Cabrera and DeSalvo got acquainted with the works of Roberts, leaving them a deep impression, and they casually turned on Lavelle to these ideas. The current CD booklet of the trio is equipped with quotes from Seth and Roberts and the name of the project and the album is a term from the books meaning “Federation of consciousness”. Without touching the more ideological component of the album, let’s go straight to the music.
I listened to this album with great interest and pleasure. All three musicians have already established a solid foundation in jazz, all three are closely connected with downtown culture of the New York avant-garde and all three are adept at free improvisation. To begin with, their instrumentation shows that this is no ordinary project; trumpet (and its variants) plus alto clarinet by Matt Lavelle. Jack DeSalvo on cello, mandola and guitar. Multiplicitous percussion instruments of various timbre and volume are played by Tom Cabrera. This is a three man orchestra of horns-strings-drums. Such a wide arsenal allows these players to make their music unusually rich and diverse. Their improvisations can be ethnically motivated (this is especially noticeable in the Counterparts Are Comparitively Encountered). Without losing the entire freedom of the music, what is visible is the melodic basis of all of the compositions. Impressive is the sky-high steaming trumpet, in which passages of just a few notes sometimes seem infinite, with literally hypnotic themes develop in “Alternate Presents and Multiple Focus”, while a highly energetic finale awaits you at “The Gates of Horn”. In short, a very unusual, very creative recording that is far from free-jazz excesses. This is how I would summarize my impressions of Sumari.