Cosmosamatics is: Sonny Simmons, one of the grand-daddies of the 1960s free jazz scene - he even recorded for the legendary ESP-Disk and Arhoolie labels; Michael Marcus, a leader in his own right, a frequent Simmons collaborator who’s also played with Albert King, William Parker & Jaki Byard; Jay Rosen has played with the CIMP posse, Dom Minasi and Steve Swell. I was expecting an avant-blowout skronkfest from this line-up, and while there is a fair amount of joyous skronk to be heard, there’s structure, groove, swing and plenty of heart. (Before all you avant-jazz lovers get out your poison pens, I am not wholesale-dissing free/avant-jazz as an idiom/sub-genre/style/whatever - I’m just weary of meandering, structure-less, not-playing-together-just-playing-at-the same-time hooey, and those who play "free" like it’s never been done before but indeed it has, in 1965, ’78, ’91, and yesterday. Ever notice how some people are down on the Nice Suits/Young Lions/Reboppers who are stuck in the Blue Note/Prestige 1958-1966 epoch and think they’re just "regurgitating" past glories, but no one notices how some free-jazz types are just as reactionary~? End of rant.) Rosen has a light touch and a crisp sound in the vein of masters Billy Higgins and Shelly Manne, with the free/fluidity of Paul Motian - he maintains a sense of dynamic forward motion throughout. Both Simmons and Marcus play with hard-bop focus, emotional directness, restraint and a tantalizing sense of old-school Cool - there are indeed echoes of Paul Desmond, Jimmy Giuffre, and Lee Konitz, especially in Simmons’ playing. (In fact, sometimes Cosmonautics
reminds me of The Three and "The Two"
, a very-ahead-of-its-time Shelly Manne 1954 session for two horns & drums.) Thematically/melody-wise, some tunes recall (in terms of essence, not "sounding like") Don Cherry’s mid-to-late 60s jazz and world/jazz fusion stuff) and Rahsaan Roland Kirk - there’s a plaintive ache mixed with a touch of brashness and the sardonic to the melodies, while sidestepping the ponderous dirges that many "out" players succumb to when they want to "do" melodies. Every now ‘n’ again, the horns intertwine with a harmony that’s positively Ellingtonian (albeit in very stripped-down form). As I mentioned, there are "out" moments, but those are passionate and cathartic rather than self-absorbed or vague. While Three
is unlikely to convert (m)any fans of Stan Kenton, Oscar Peterson or Jimmy McGriff, it is HIGHLY recommended to avant/free neophytes and jazz fans who need their "out" sounds to connect with the gut as well as the intellect.
Boxholder Records. PO Box 779 Woodstock, VT. 05091