Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ben Holmes Quartet Anvil of the Lord Skirl 2012

I'm old school...being old helps. Covert art is probably the forgotten casualty in the age of the digital download and Karlsson Wilker's work on the latest from the Ben Holmes Quartet Anvil of the Lord set to drop on November 12th, 2012 is some of the very best I have seen in years. Now we turn our attention to the Ben Holmes Quartet.

Anvil of the Lord is the second full length project with Holmes at the controls and this up and coming trumpeter and composer enlists the help of some Brooklyn heavyweights with Curtis Hasselbring on trombone, Matt Pavolka on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. Nine originals capture the improvisational magic and sonic cohesion rarely heard from a quartet, much less any ensemble with such a short time spent together. Anvil of the Lord as opposed to the first release tosses genre, self imposed limitations and the more traditional forms of musical form and functionality that we refer to as jazz right out the window and becomes to a lesser degree a critics worst nightmare. This is a beautiful thing.

Anvil of the Lord is one of the most unique and at times sonically devastating pieces of work as it blends a myriad of influences from rock, Romantic classical harmony, classic cinematography film score and free improvisation to create a textured hybrid of shifting meter, dynamic interplay and a spontaneous synergy the like of which has not been heard in years. Bassist Matt Pavolka is an incredibly lyrical bassist that swings hard but assumes the role of a type of sonic adhesive holding the horn section at bay while laying down an infectious groove for the remainder of the rhythm section to follow. The roots of the band seem firmly grounded in the Eastern European style including the great Romanian singer Gabi Lunca or the contrapuntal waltz "Magic Mondays" which shifts effortlessly between the open ended modal explorations and the blistering harmonic developments. Other inspirations of tunes indicate that classic byproduct of their own cultural experiences including the illegal torch light parade through the French quarter during heavy fog, this experience gave birth to "Moved Like A Ghost." The tune "Kingston" rose from the ashes if not utter frustration most of us have known for a transit system that is notorious for their lack of adherence to proper scheduling and mechanics that are less than proficient in their daily duties. The more dirge like bass feature of " Malacj Harmovis was inspired by Chopin's Prelude #2, colloquially known as "Presentiment of Death."

Ben Holmes has been a regular on the jazz and world music scenes for over a decade, hardly a newbie but the time spent in garnering critical acclaim and attention is long overdue. Melodically this is a 4tet that is firmly grounded but even when breaking off into a more free jazz setting their sense of swing and connectivity to the audience never seems lost. The next big thing in the on again off again free jazz movement? This is where the smart money goes. Ben Holmes works both sides of the jazz street be it compositional or as a virtuoso instrumentalist his stock is definitely on the uptick and that great returns are forecast! Referring to the chemistry in a band is a bit of conjecture according to a former editor. The great guitarist John Abercrombie said a good critic has to have strong opinions and not be afraid to stand by them so that being said, "The Ben Holmes Quartet is a musical stock with an arrow pointing straight up!"

Tracks: Doodle For Rhapsody; Magic Mondays; Moving Like A Ghost; Kingston; Otessianek: Anvil of the Lord; Malach Hamovi; Song For Creel Thompson; Nada Vs Armitage.

Personnel: Ben Holmes: trumpet; Curtis Hasselbring: trombone; Matt Pavolka: bass; Vinnie Sperrazza: drums.