Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Music On The Way From Gavin Templeton!

Gavin Templeton Trio
Some Spinning, Some at Rest
Orenda Records
1 August 2014
Pausing for a moment to ponder, there do not seem to be a whole lot of alto saxophone/bass/drums trio recordings in the lexicon of what we have decided to call "jazz". The names of a few alto saxophonist leaders who have led and documented their trios come to mind: Ornette Coleman, Oliver Lake, Steve Coleman, Tim Berne… Most of the recordings that came to mind ended up having added woodwinds or some other such variations, as in the case of say, Anthony Braxton, Joe McPhee or Air. It doesn't seem like it, but this configuration is, then, rather unique. And in the case of the Gavin Templeton Trio - a group of spry young players hailing from Southern California - the music is both forward-looking and extremely classic and inviting. With contrabassist Richard Giddens and drummer Gene Coye alongside alto saxophonist and composer Gavin, this trio evinces chemistry and camaraderie from the very first note of this recording.
I met Gavin Templeton after listening to him play in a quintet (sometimes sextet) led by my old friend and West Coast wonder Vinny Golia. All the young gentlemen in that group were able to deftly negotiate VInny's intricate and challenging compositions as well as make lucid and exciting the sections of total freedom/invention. Gavin looked like he was about 16 years old (he kind of still does), but even back then he played like a veteran; keeping the fire going while staying on top of his tone and technique, resisting the temptation to go completely wild that so often tempts young firebrand players set free for a few minutes. 
As opposed to that music, Gavin's is extremely tuneful. In fact, every song on this record is just that: a SONG. Whether grooving (and these tunes really do GROOVE) in a neo-Latin zone as in "Exit Row", vamping in 7/4 as in "Around Arroyo", or getting down into hard ballad downtempo as in "Not Tonight", these compositions usually follow a rather classic verse/chorus/verse/bridge/chorus (or something) structure. And the melodies are just that: melodies, often quite singable! Classic. It did not surprise me to learn that this record was played completely 'live' with no headphones, no remixing, no retracing of steps. This methodology is simultaneously retro and totally right now. Classic. It makes this lively music sound completely alive. 
I don't want to put too many of my own ideas into your head - you might be one of those people who reads liner notes before listening to the record (bad idea). So let me just say a few words about the playing - for you to read AFTER you hear this delightful document: This trio really percolates rather than wails. I really enjoy the fact that with all the amazing invention evident, the band never really goes over the edge into mayhem - not that there's anything wrong with mayhem, of course! But Gavin scrupulously avoids wild gesticulations and overblowing, preferring to stay in the melodic zone, wrenching cogent variations out of what his compositions offer. The rhythm section really hits with a full head of steam, Coye's drum inventiveness and fire bursting at the seams - but they pull away from unbridled freakout. The effect of this is compelling and at times truly exhilarating. 
Gavin tells me that he wrote this music on flights from Los Angeles to New York (where he was playing on a recording project of mine) and back. That flight was either a really groovy scene or he was channeling an inner groove, because this record is a groover. Even though there is a whole lot to listen to here you could blaze some of these tracks at a pool party and only a few squares would whine. Who can resist such cool fire? 
I, for one, cannot.
Nels Cline
New York City - 26 May 2014