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Abstracts by Jacob Garchik

For me there are always contradictions with this type of music. As I discovered myself after an extended involvement with free playing, it isn't free; it imposes a set of stylistic constraints that can be as limiting as any formal structure, if not more so. And it certainly does not allow for the introduction of other forms. The result is that the improviser is locked into a kind of chromatic box, or perhaps a tube-it's totally open-ended but also very narrow.

So it is that when I first received this recording I knew exactly what it would sound like before I played it. This is not unusual, I knew exactly what the Hank Jones Frank Wess CD I received the same day would sound like. I know what Mozart or Raga Yaman will sound like. The difference is that "free" music is supposed to be just that-limited only by the performer's imagination. It is not. Not only is the melodic/harmonic language quite constrained, even predictable, so is the range of affect it can produce. I don't know if this is common knowledge these days or a dirty little secret.

Having said that, I hasten to add that this is not meant as a criticism of Garchik and his cohorts. Within the limitations of the genre they perform admirably. Garchik has a big warm sound and lots of technique, and judging by the list of people he works with--Lee Konitz, Steve Swallow, the Mingus Big Band, Elvis Costello--he has a lot of breadth. Of all wind instruments, the trombone was perhaps the greatest beneficiary when the avant garde came along, releasing it from the J.J. Johnson straitjacket and restoring some of its gut-bucket swagger, courtesy of Roswell Rudd, Jimmy Knepper, Ray Anderson and Paul Rutherford. Garchik has listened to all these guys, and probably also to fifteenth century sackbut grooves, and I know he is into Klezmer. (I'd love to hear him with Aaron Alexander's Midrash Mish Mosh!) But all these influences have been absorbed and subjugated to Garchik's musical vision.

This is the second bass-less trio I have reviewed this week so I am repeating myself when I express the view that the bass has a critical role in the average jazz ensemble. Garchik's trio works well enough without one, but I can still hear how much richer it might sound with Gary Peacock or Dave Holland added. Perhaps economics do not allow it.

The eight Abstracts that comprise the session are just that; abstract improvisations built on brief compositions. Brief, to the point, and remarkably free of self-indulgence, they hold the interest throughout. If you are a fan of the trombone and of free jazz you will find this a satisfying recording.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jacob Garchik
  • CD Title: Abstracts
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Yestereve Records
  • Musicians: Jacob Garchik (trombone), Jacob Sacks (piano), Dan Weiss (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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