RARA AVIS — Mutations / Multicellulars Mutations (review)

RARA AVIS — Mutations / Multicellulars Mutations album cover Album · 2013 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Free jazz, once considered an anachronism from the late 60s, has managed to maintain its devotees over the years and has even increased its popularity in the new century so much that just like any previous genre of jazz, from Dixieland to hard bop, free jazz has found its permanent place in the “big tent“ world of modern jazz. Unfortunately, this increase in popularity has also brought about a decrease in originality and musicality as well. Too often, in today’s jazz world, free jazz and other avant-garde styles are synonymous with amateur performances and naïve attempts at originality from those who lack background. There was a time when the label “avant-garde” would immediately grab my interest, these days I’m more apt to see the label as a warning towards impending boredom.

Having said all that, hearing the new double CD by Rara Avis, “Mutations/Multicellulars Mutations”, restored my faith in the viability of modern free jazz when placed in the hands of those who know how to make this stuff work. Rara Avis is a new project led by the saxophone duo of Ken Vandermark and Stefano Ferrian, aided by Luca Pissavini on acoustic bass, Simon Quatrana on piano and SEC_ on electronics plus live electronic treatments of the acoustic instruments. The use of electronics on here is very nice and adds so much variety to their sound. On “Gene Flow”, the woodwinds hold long notes so that the electrician can bend and change the notes causing their sounds to bounce around the speakers.

The music on here varies from very busy all-out free assaults, to quieter moments that allow the electronics to twist things. One big plus on here is the playing itself, these guys are all top notch jazz musicians, and it shows in the constant stream of notes they unleash when they decide to go that route. The variety of improvisations on here may remind some of Art Ensemble of Chicago, Threadgill’s Air or Circle, while the use of electronics recalls the exotic days of 60s concert hall music when composers like Davidovsky and Teitlebaum would write pieces for computer controlled synthesizers and acoustic instruments. This album is far better than any other free jazz record I have heard in a long time.

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