Posts Tagged ‘adam kolker’

Flag Day

June 26, 2008

In the fifties, Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman pioneered the art of saxophonistic improvisation in combo settings without piano accompaniment, which forced musicians to find inventive ways to negotiate through the music s melodic and harmonic labyrinths. The multi-dimensional tenor saxophonist/flutist/clarinetist Adam Kolker is one reedman who successfully negotiated those mazes, and his star-studded Sunnyside debut, Flag Day, with drummer Paul Motian, guitarist John Abercrombie, and bassist John Hebert, lays down the path for others to follow.

The New York-born Kolker, a veteran of many combo, big band, and Latin ensembles, from Orange Then Blue to Ray Barretto s New World Spirit, is blessed with a robust and warm sax sound that combines Rollins s bravura, Lester Young s poetry and Joe Henderson s inner urged logic. Backed by Motian s sensitive drumming, Abercrombie s ethereal guitar lines, and Hebert s rock-steady basslines, this multi-generational date was destined to be special. As former New York Times critic Peter Watrous wrote in the liner notes, … I remember sitting in the recording booth listening to the first takes that had me wanting to stand up and cheer, simply because of the music s humanity, the concentration of knowledge in each tune, the sort of achievement that fights decay and entropy….

The disc s seven tracks are worthy of Watrous s accolades. The Ornette-ish gNash opens the disc with Kolker s hypnotizing solo run. Neil Young s Don t Let It Bring You Down offers a lovely contrast: a soulful, Pat Metheny-type American Garage kind of tune started by Kolker s heartland improvisations. Played Twice is of course, one of Thelonious Monk s classic numbers, played to playful, propulsive perfection. On Ties Kolker flexes his clarinet and flute chops on this classically tinged piece, while Only One returns to the Monkish mood. The standard Last Night When We Were Young dedicated to Kolker s former boss Barretto, shows that the saxophonist knows, and can play in, the tradition. In Or Out is a bluesy workout punctuated by tasty guitar/sax unison lines. The title track closes the CD with Kolker s pithy and poignant soprano sax lines this side of Steve Lacy.

Kolker s so advanced, it s simple sax sound sprang from many roots and branches. Born on December 12, 1958 in New York City, he began his career as a sideman with some of the finest musicians on the scene, including the Maria Schneider Big Band, the Village Vanguard Orchestra, The Jazz Composers Octet, the Gil Evans Orchestra, Kenny Wheeler s Large Ensemble, Bruce Barth, Bobby Previte, and Freddie Hubbard. But his jazz recordings with the all-world conguero Ray Barretto, Taboo (1994, Concord), My Summertime (1995, Blue Note), Contact! (Blue Note, 1997), Portraits in Jazz and Clave (BMG, 2000), Trancedance (Sunnyside, 2002), and Hot Hands (2003, Concord), were arguably his most prominent. His CDs as a leader include Crazy Bird (A Records, 1999), Change of Time, a trio date based on the music of Bela Bartok (Omni Tone Records, 2002), and Sultanic Verses (SatchmoJazz Records, 2004). He also teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Which brings us up to Flag Day, an impressive document of a unique voice and approach in jazz music.

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