Saturday, July 2, 2011

Aaron Alexander/Julian Priester: Conversational Music

Aaron Alexander (drums)
Julian Priester (trombone)
Conversational Music (Self Produced; 2010)

A pleasant surprise. That is one of the things I have to say about this fantastic collaboration between legendary trombonist, Julian Priester and the hugely under-rated Aaron Alexander.

Both have been on the scene for a combined six decades. Priester's worked since the late 50s and 60s, mostly notably in Sun Ra's band plus he was also a member of John Coltrane group that recorded Africa/Brass (as well as his own work with Sam Rivers). Alexander is an amazing talent in his own rite. He studied under Priester in the 80s and later formed the New York based Midrash Mish Mosh and worked with the famous Klezmatics in addition to releasing his own solo material. This meeting seemed inevitable albeit long overdue (15 years).

The fruit of their recent meeting became Conversational Music. And it is in a nutshell just that - a beautiful conversation and exploration between two talented and forward thinking musicians. There are dedicated solo pieces from each member interwoven between the duo sessions, all making this a very enjoyable and delicate listen.  With the diverse/dynamic background the musicians have, you would expect something a bit more avant garde but this is a more tempered outing. "Gerald Stephen" begins with some terrific rolling from Alexander and countered by bouncing patterns laid out by Priester. It may feel like a number of notes at once but there is a melody just underneath that Priester has spontaneously created after the two musicians delicately improvise. Well worth a second listen to find the groove, so-to-speak.

"Kocmierozki's Shed" is the one moment where Alexander shows his avant garde credentials. It's a piece with gongs, ambient streams and soft washes of sound. It sets a perfect mood that rides right into "Ode To Lucius Harper" a solo piece from Priester. Priester's deep tone builds over the course of the piece and adds a level of emotion that is both exciting as it is touching. "Bulaga Bugalu" sets out in tribal fashion with Alexander pounding away in what I think is a 4/4 pattern (I'm not a drummer so I could be completely wrong). Alexander quickly comes in with a corresponding pattern that is rich and dense in tone but allows Alexander to experiment as the piece moves further along.

"Gingging, Bongbong" is an experimental soundscape where both musicians explore different found elements through percussion and various vocal treatments to Priester's trombone. The piece is fascinating in the knowledge that you don't know what the next note is going to be. The closing number "Evolver" has a bluesy motif underneath, but the road the two men travel is more searching and waiting for the next improvised note from the other. "Evolver" is a great way to close the album showing the session may have actually led to more similar opportunities for the two musicians.

Conversational Music is one of those buried treasures that I hope fans of interesting duo projects will gravitate to. It should not be missed. There are pieces here that even fans of contemporary jazz might like (in small doses). But avant garde fans--you should definitely seeks this record out. Aaron Alexander and Julian Priester are two artist who deserve the recognition that seems to be missing. Highly Recommended.

1 comment:

  1. I would have to agree, this is a great collaboration. Great Job Aaron Alexander and Julian Priester!