Sunday, October 17, 2010

Celebrating Ray Anderson

Ray Anderson (trombone; b, 1952)
Ray Anderson / Marty Ehrlich Quartet
Hear You Say: Live In Willisau (Challenge Records; 2010)

Marty Ehrlich (sax; clarinet)
Matt Wilson (drums)
Brad Jones (bass)

This weekend was trombonist and Chicago native, Ray Anderson's birthday. A technically proficient and highly original performer, he gained wide recognition with Anthony Braxton and Barry Altschul in the late 70s and 80s. His ability to meld both free form and bebop to me makes him combination some of his contemporaries like Steve Davis and Jeb Bishop. In addition, to celebrating his birthday, Ray Anderson has just released Hear You Say: Live In Willisau (Challenge Records), a collaboration with another versatile performer, saxophonist, Marty Ehlrich, whom both met while playing with Anthony Braxton.

The fun, humorous opener, "Portrait of Leroy Jenkins" with New Orleans aesthetics includes great back and forth dialog between Anderson and Ehrlich. It is sometimes surprising to realize they have not recorded together before yet playing in the same music circles for years. "Hot Crab Pot" is a scorcher with Anderson showing exquisite versatility along with crisp time keeping from Matt Wilson and some brilliant movement on bass by Brad Jones. Ehrlich joins in for a magnificent and extended solo midway that really tears up the scales.

"My Wish" is beautifully paced ballad which Anderson almost sounds like saxophone. Another example of his truly brilliant artistry. But the union of Ehrlich and Anderson cannot be overstated. Both men are the leaders here. They standout on each piece but for completely different reasons. There is a real camaraderie between all the musicians that gives the listener a feeling that this group has been performing for years but in actuality its only been two years. Truly amazing.

There's allot of post bop and improvisation moving throughout this live performance. It's a real jumpin' affair. "The Lion's Tanz" is a great piece that delivers an improvisational forum for all the members. It's a short piece but delivers a memorable punch. "Alligatory Rhumba" and "The Git Go" both bouncing numbers which Ehrlich and Anderson battle muscle, verve and polytechnic rhythms that also settle into a nice funky beat at times.

This funk leads into the closing number and title track is both gospel influenced as it is funkdified. "Hear You Say" has deep New Orleans-Dirty Dozen vibe but with even more true grit. Some excellent phrasing between the two lead musicians highlights this closer. Superb stuff.

Hear You Say: Live In Willisau is wonderful recording of a quartet that hopefully will continue record of the next few years. Each of the members has there own bands but this an excellent outlet for their creative forces that should be heard whenever possible.

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