Given the impressive lineup of Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman, you’d expect innovation with an edge. You’d assume the music would be difficult, but its astringency would yield unexpected rewards. You’d feel the off-kilter notes of an astringent soundscape, but you would not think it would be boring. ‘Open Ideas’ is indeed a challenging listen, and its rewards are elusive. The results are not sharp, but muddy. It has its moments, but there are stretches where the ideas seem to expire in midstream, yet the playing continues as if waiting for inspiration.
‘Casino’ is a cool bluesy slide through gambling. Lake’s sleazy sounding sax playing masks the otherwise limp lyrics. Once through, there is not much reason to retrace one’s steps into this palace of addiction. ‘Open Ideas’ starts with some melodic dark moods of swirling images but really never goes anywhere, just round and round, and almost most stops halfway through, nearly pausing to wait for another idea to emerge. ‘5-4-3-2-1’ descends into repetition. There’s not much to bite off. There is even less on ‘Dance 2.’
But Lake’s ‘Valley Stretch’ feels like the wait is over. The song has both sweetness and harshness. It can be powerful at times, it can be self-doubting at others. The band knows where it is going and their conversation is near telepathic. Workman’s ‘Willow Song’ is a gorgeous soulful romp. One only wishes that the entire album could be on the level of these two pieces.