Alto saxophonist Rocco John Iacovone studied with Lee Konitz and put in time with Sam Rivers. As the liner notes point out, this explains the sense of having feet in both the outside and melodic camps. The influence of both is apparent throughout the nine piece program. With John’s working trio of the past decade, double bassist Aaron Keane and drummer Dalius Naujokaitis, as well as trumpeter Michael Irwin, a recent cohort, the group works cohesively and often mesmerizes in the process.
The extended opener, "Overture," offers space for horns dueling, complimenting and cajoling over percussion, reminding a bit of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. The following Dolphy-esque "Gentilesse" is notable for the intersection of the horns, at once seeming to clash and to be hand in hand. "Indigo Joe" offers stretching room for bass and drums. The bass is particularly strong here, though the principals trade fours while remaining aurally challenging.
"Ming’s Things," a tribute of sorts to Mingus, adheres to the master, both in compositional structure and in execution and voicing. Naujokaitis is explosive throughout the piece, with Keane taking the role of Mingus, as cajoler and cheerleader.
The title piece is brilliant in the interplay between sax, trumpet, cymbals, rims and bass. "Cursory Rhyme" does indeed have a recurring and repetitive motif over which the alto and trumpet play at running and jumping among the choruses. The closing "Finale," the longest composition at more than 10 ½ minutes, opens tentatively before the roll of the drums announces an impending strength in mood. John’s playing here is particularly riveting. Irwin’s counterpoint, over bass and drums, is hypnotic.
The Rocco John Group are keepers of the improvisational flame, as evidenced by this exquisite performance piece.