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Queen Dynamo by Michael Vlatkovich Tritet

Free jazz is an elusive thing. Technically, all jazz is free, to some extent - it’s just the degree to which the musicians are willing to allow the impositions of harmony or melodic concepts to be removed. Free jazz is also, to be played well, not totally free. It, like all jazz, is best performed by musicians who have performed together over an extended period and are thus able to play within the shared associations they’ve created among their fellow partners. Only by having intimate knowledge of the musical abilities and tendencies of your fellow cohorts, and in turn playing off of and with the melodic and conceptual motives they present from informed intuition of these shared associations, can any jazz truly rise above "play-along" status.

Trombonist Michael Vlatkovich’s foray into free jazz contains some of the best elements of the above. He, along with bassist Jonas Tauber and drummer Ken Ollis, at times seem to be so closely tied to the musical empathy of each other, such as on The Length Of The Tail Doesn’t Really Matter But It Does Have To Be Bushy and All Flat Deebee Geegee Too, you would think they were playing with one mind. So closely do they find ways to negotiate the tricky terrain of no boundaries, it is obvious that only through the use of six highly trained radar ears are they able to make surprisingly cohesive statements. Their flexible lines and percussive pops all fit into a well constructed and improvised whole. The sense of cohesiveness that comes through in many of the tracks, such as in Daily Parade Dragging Their Lives Behind Them, creates, as an end result, free jazz that even your mother might love.

Unfortunately, the musicians are not able to keep up the high level of artistic interplay throughout the entire disc. For example, the first track, Our Costumes Should Tell Us Who We Are And What We Think, is one of the weaker efforts. The tritet, as Vlatkovich calls the group, is able to neither sustain melodic flow nor cohesive ensemble interplay, the strengths this ensemble displays on many of the other tracks. Their lines all seem to wander with the musicians having trouble finding common threads to follow. It becomes free music that has no grounding, and therefore a bit pedantic.

Over all, however, this group hits some real high points, and is only limited by occasionally faltering moments. Free jazz isn’t for everyone, and given enough time there’s no telling how good the musical telekinesis of these three musicians might be. Call this a good starting point.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Michael Vlatkovich Tritet
  • CD Title: Queen Dynamo
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Origin Records
  • Rating: Three Stars
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