Next, what type of music is it?
Oakland, California based reedman Cory Wright (Anthony Braxton, Vinny Golia & Yusef Lateef delivers a manifold and juxtaposing ensemble date on Apples + Oranges. It doesn’t take too long to determine that the album poses a surfeit of diagonally opposed viewpoints. Other than the highly emphatic and synergistic group-centric output, Wright’s compositions hit the mark, and this is one of those very special endeavors that excites, entertains and sustains interest.
Wright’s involvement with visionary composer and improviser, Anthony Braxton seems to have assimilated into some of these pieces. However, the band’s buoyant mode of operation is coupled with a feisty disposition. They execute highly charged free- bop, featuring whirling sax choruses by Wright and Evan Francis while flirting with the chamber-jazz element during “Low Impact Critter,” modeled on incongruously arranged metrics and spunky multipart dialogues amid several paradigm shifts and sprightly aerial assaults.
Wright leads the Outfit through bracing swing, bop, and ballad segments via shifting parameters that seamlessly flow and interconnect. Each piece contains massive doses of pop and sizzle. And “Whaticism,” is a song-form designed with unorthodox extended note opuses that burst out of nowhere, reinforced by Lisa Mezzacappa’s earthen-toned bass notes, leading to a pre-planned breakdown. However, the “The Sea and Space” contains a sleek luster due to Francis’ complex flute phrasings in unison with Wright, and trombonist Rob Ewing’s burly solo. Here, the ensemble yields a controlled semblance of well-coordinated abstractions.
The musicians dish out minimalism and microtonal, free- form dialogues while also reverse-engineering various activities. Other regions of sound are constructed on pumping grooves and, changeable motifs that are heavily outlined upon variable cadences. Consequently, “St. Bruno’s Purview” is a mid-tempo burner atop a quasi, New Orleans 2nd line March pattern, hued with animated horn passages. Without further ado, Apples + Oranges warrants serious consideration for a spot in many year-end top-10 lists.
Playful twists on conventional jazz pepper Apples + Oranges, the new album from Bay Area sax/clarinet player Cory Wright and his quintet of locals.
It’s a free-jazz album at heart, with lots of room for improvisation and plenty of unconventional structure in the songs. But it all stems from a sunny disposition that colors the modern bebop composing, producing a great session overall.
“Freddie Awaits the Sleepers” bursts forth to start the album with tangly horns and bright, jumping bass from Lisa Mezzacappa. Jordan Glenn propels the song from the drum kit, continually percolating behind the solos, which use different tactics to weave their way into the songs. After a solid trombone solo by Rob Ewing, Wright’s tenor sax puts up easy runs of notes contrasted against the driving rhythm. Evan Francis’ alto then plays off the fury of Glenn’s drums by working in high, whining registers, a different type of ear-pleasing contrast. (I think I’ve got the order of the solos right.)
“Whaticism” is a perky and upright bit of swinging whimsy, opening with a jaunty sound. The horns act as the chord instrument, backing up each solo with little written-out phrases or, in the case of the bass solo, a repeated joint squeal. “Low Impact Critter” takes a less jazzy approach, with each instrument pecking sparsely in rapid-fire tradeoffs to create the skeleton of a swing. Later, it’s got flute, clarinet, and trombone mixing it up for a drumless improvisation that’s a lot of fun. “The Sea and Space” is slow but bright, Wright’s clarinet proudly fluttering over a minor-key composition with a catchy bass rhythm and calm lines from the horns. It ends with a hard-driven groove backing Ewing’s trombone solo. Everything wraps up with “St. Bruno’s Purview,” a showy tune with hints of old-timey melody. It features some throaty, burbly clarinet moments — a complement to two other “St. Bruno’s”-titled tracks that serve as short interludes.
The most drastic mood shift comes with the 11-minute “Eyedrop,” an exercise in sparse improvisation. Its opening themes are small modern-classical scribbles, spaced apart by quiet, crawling improv segments, one of which eventually takes over to form a slowly jazz-oriented improvising over small, composed outlines. It’s gutsy to take up so much of the album with an experimental piece, but it’s also a way to show off another side of the high-caliber band assembled here. Mezzacappa’s bass solo, over slowly cascading horn notes, is a nice lead-in to the song’s final theme. “Eyedrop” might seem like a speed bump to some listeners who tune in more easily to the overly jazzy tracks, like an orange among the apples, but I’m happy to take them all in together.
In jazz, there are composers and there are soloists and, as they say, “never the twain shall meet.” Okay, not impossible, but it is rare in modern jazz for a musician to be both an outstanding soloist and a talented arranger. Listening to Apples + Oranges by West Coast saxophonist Cory Wright, the challenge is to determine which of the two talents makes this a thriving and effective recording.
But then again, requiring one to choose will result in a false choice. I like both chocolate and peanut butter, and I love them together.
The disc opens with “Freddie Awaits The Sleepers,” a piece that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1959 repertoire of Ornette Coleman. That is, if Ornette would have employed a trombonist. Rob Ewing’s bone punches through the evanescent bebop passages while Evan Francis’ alto saxophone shakes skittering notes. Wright’s composition masquerades as unconfined, but it is actually a tightly woven composition. And so are the other seven pieces he penned here. “Whaticism” plays with time, bassist Lisa Mezzacappa soloing, then guiding the quintet through some challenging parts. The music alternately tangles complex arrangements with accommodating solos. Wright’s saxophone is a resonant full-bodied sound that fits hand in glove with altoist Evan Francis. He plays both tenor saxophone and Bb clarinet here, delivering a brawny sound. One that has been featured in the bands of Anthony Braxton, Adam Rudolph, Vinnie Golia, and Yusef Lateef.
The beauty of this session is the range of the music. Wright’s music can encompass the ceremonial sounds of the “St. Bruno’s” series, a semi-classical chamber jazz composition “Eyedrop,” and “Low Impact Critter,” a sort of “Carl Stalling” cartoon music tribute score. Apples + Oranges turns the wow factor to maximum.
by Mark Corroto. Originally posted at All About Jazz