Thursday, September 16, 2004

Mal: Adroit

One of several things on the jukebox today: Mal Waldron's The Quest, recorded in 1961. With Waldron on piano and compositions, Eric Dolphy on alto and clarinet, Booker Ervin on tenor, Ron Carter on cello, Joe Benjamin on bass, Charlie Persip on drums.

The IJG has grown so much over the last year that it was a nice change when this last tour forced me to revisit the quintet format (because of space considerations at one of our gigs). To get in the mindset for that I started listening to a lot of small groups again, and Waldron's on this recording is one of the best I've come across. One might anticipate certain problems before checking them out. Ervin and Dolphy together, one might assume, would echo the intensity of each other's playing. Carter and Benjamin together would produce an excess of low frequency. But these fears are unjustified: it all works.

The tunes themselves are focused, minimalistic, haunting. There is an "unfinished" or "sketch-like" quality to many of them, but it doesn't register as a deficiency. In the end the quality of the tunes and the quality of the players makes it difficult to tell where the lead sheet ends and the improvisation begins.

Highly recommended.

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