KEN WAXMAN — Jazz Word 15 Jun 2012

Decoding Jazz’s history so that it’s relevant for contemporary musicians has become one of the concerns of this century. While it’s obvious that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it – in an inferior fashion – conversely those who know only history can’t contribute to the music’s evolution. […]
Peeping Tom’s bassist Joel Grip is Swedish. Founder of Umlaut Records, he works with different continental musicians in bands such as Je Suis and SNUS. Alto saxophonist Pierre-Antoine Badaroux is Paris-based as is drummer Antonin Gerbal and is in bands such as r.mutt and megaton. Meanwhile Trumpeter Axel Dörner is a Berliner and seems to be a part of half the avant bands in Europe, working with everyone from pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach to violinist Angharad Davies. […]
Tunes by McLean, Herbie Nichols, George Wallington and other advanced Boppers and Hard Bopper are featured on Boperation, but never do the tone and timbres of Badaroux’s alto saxophone resemble those of his Bop forefathers. Dörner also lacks any electronic extension – he often uses it elsewhere – but at the same time his playing doesn’t reference rote Bop-isms. The band’s fundamental voicing also have Coleman-Cherry echoes. But they are used as contrast rather than comparison, since another anomaly of this CD is that it consists of compositions by pianists reinterpreted by a piano-less band. While this off-centre approach works most of the time, paradoxically it’s sometimes frustrated when the simple and familiar tropes of the material prelude post-modernist interpretation.
Demonstrative reconstruction occurs on tunes such as Wallington’s “Escalating”, Nichols’ “The Gig” and “House Party Starting” and a medley of Eddie Costa’s “Pile Driver” and Dodo Marmarosa’s “Dodo’s Dance”. All of these lines were composed by pianists working on how to escape the Bop harmonic straightjacket without turning to what became Coleman’s radical solutions.
Case in point is “House Party Starting” which after a broken octave exposition becomes harsh and friction-ridden. While Grip spiccato slaps and bows thickly and Gerbal shifts ratamacues and rim shots, the trumpeter’s stratospheric peeps and the saxophonist’s pedal-point slurs open up to half-valve growls and snorting staccato runs respectively. This doesn’t preclude head recapitulation, but the repetition appears to be there not out of habit but for emphasis. Among pregnant pauses, single notes balance between the two horns as Dörner’s tremolo tones turn to squeals and Badaroux masticates irregular breath lengths. Percussion ruffs and woody bass stops maintain the interface.
Analogous bravado appears on the Costa/Marmarosa melody suture. Both more Bop-like than POMO contrapuntal, the compositions’ unexpected multiphonics mostly arrive from Badaroux’s glottal punctuation and intense reed splintering. Gerbal’s blunt drags and ruffs precede brassy juddering from Dörner as part of tune summation.
While other compositions don’t benefit s much from pointillist lengthening and muting, Pepping Tom’s avowed aim of refurbishing Bop lines with post-modern options is more satisfying than Tóth composing new melodies that closely resemble what has been played previously. While Boperation can be unreservedly praised, it appears as if the Hungarian saxman should turn his prodigious chops and talent for arrangement to material that is more challenging in performance as well as concept.

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