(Black Hat)

Michael Cooke plays all kinds of reeds (in this occasion flute, soprano, alto & tenor sax and soprano & bass clarinet), being also a composer who tries to reach a fusion point between his many influences – which include John Zorn, Klezmer and Indian music – while keeping an attentive eye on the single paths walked by the instrumental entities of his quintet (Jen Baker on trombone, didgeridoo and singing bowl, Shoko Hikage on koto, Alex Kelly on cello and igil, Timothy Orr on drums and percussion). It amounts to a nice effort by an unconventional gathering of sensitive artists, seven tracks for almost 70 minutes of music that explores various themes, not only in music but also life; as a matter of fact, two improvisations (“Loss” and “N 36 7.46′ W 121 38.36″) are memorials for persons that Cooke loved very much – his two grandmothers and a dear friend – and both are veiled with conscious, pensive sadness. Even the 15-minute final suite, “Chain of existence”, is referred to unspecified “personal events” which affected Cooke’s growth. These feelings aside, the record brims with pugnacious loquacity alternated with spiritual depth and inquisitive-minded playfulness, helped by the strange timbral juxtapositions of the ensemble. The instrumentalists know their chops inside and out but never for a moment the music sounds manufactured, getting its energy from the very interplay that these akin souls are able to continuously generate and aliment with what I’d call “devotional fantasy”. A mouthful of fresh fruit for new jazz aficionados.

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