Black Hat Records presents:
Cooke Quintet's CD an indefinite suspension of the possible
Reviews of other CDs: Statements , Searching and The Is
Jazz ao Centro Clube, Feb 06, 2007 (in Portuguese/English Translation)
Artist: Cooke Quintet
Album: an indefinite suspension of the possible
Label: Black Hat
Review date: Jan. 31, 2007
Improvised music, the term woefully and increasingly inadequate, is forced to contend with multiple intertwining histories. For me, post-modern reference and juxtaposition have become less satisfying modes of exploration, mainly due to overuse. I’m always impressed to hear diversity channeled through some sort of overarching compositional vision, nebulous but palpable, that can unify a disc of the most disparate material.
An Indefinite Suspension of the Possible, multi-instrumentalist Michael Cooke’s most recent offering, was an extremely pleasant surprise. Clearly, instrumentation goes some way toward setting the group apart from countless other similar-sized ventures - check the unlikely combination of koto, trombone and cello. Here, my high expectations were validated; while the group’s influences are clearly audible, they are also extremely varied, ranging from the harmolodically drenched in-your-face thrust and drive of “Hard 8” to the meterless Orientalist whispers, metallic rustles and soft moans of “Love at Twilight.”
The way in which sound is presented and group interplay is fostered turns the disc from mere homage to statement. Every player is also a listener, displaying willingness to speak out and to step aside in equal proportion. The sudden drops in volume as soloists switch can be both unnerving and exhilarating, lacking as it is in many “free jazz” settings. Beyond that, the players are obviously engaged with the compositions themselves; when cellist Alex Kelly takes a solo on “Hard 8,” he constructs his line from fragments of the Colemanesque head. Every player is similarly inclined, the koto work of Shoko Hikage being especially noteworthy. Sparse yet bursting with energy, Hikage’s contributions embody the disc’s multivalent roots in every tremoloed and bent utterance. Trombonist Jen Baker was also a revelation, always ready to lend support in lower registers with terrifying swells and rumbles while also an absolutely lyrical soloist.
These musicians have found themselves in excellent company before, but this unit boasts great compositions in equally convincing interpretations. They foster Cooke’s vision, complementing his saxophone, clarinet and flute work with a sonic pallet that is adventurous without succumbing to superficiality.
By Marc Medwin
Lou Nautique - KFJC 89.7, April 11, 2007 at 5:07 pm:
A wonderful depth of sound and style is to be found on this oft reminiscent release. Taking the intriguing mixture of cello, trombone and koto (the Japanese stringed instrument which is layed on the ground and plucked) for a full spin around its realm of interesting possibilities while Michael Cooke takes a dance with every wind instrument he can get his hands on, these (for jazz) youngsters deliver a surprisingly mature and thoughtful work which often exudes joy without jumping out of its track. This is the truly pleasant surprise of this work - how it encompasses such a rich degree of feeling yet still manages to sound largely as a single piece. Repeat listens are well rewarded, but there is plenty to behold on the first pass, even for jazz neophytes. Tracks are longish, and a bit weighty, although sparse in sound at times. A welcome entry from a group with a lot of potential. Suspend your disbelief, don’t worry about what’s possible, and enjoy what has already been realized.
Dave Wayne - jazzreview.com:
Featured Artist: Michael Cooke Quintet
CD Title: An Indefinite Suspension of the Possible
Record Label: Black Hat Records
Style: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
Michael Cooke (flute, soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, soprano and bass clarinets), Jen Baker (trombone, didgeridoo, singing bowl, Shoko Hikage (koto), Alex Kelly (cello, igil), Timothy Orr (drums, percussion)Review:
On An Indefinite Suspension of the Possible, multi-reed player and composer Michael Cooke leads a quintet with a highly unlikely instrumentation through seven original compositions that draw from a dizzyingly eclectic array of source materials. Though the quintet’s basic sound could be described as “avant-garde jazz’, there are multiple layers in Cooke’s compositions that draw significantly upon different world musics (Klezmer, Northern Indian ragas, Australian Aboriginal music, etc.). The band’s instrumentation includes koto (a traditional Japanese stringed instrument), cello, and igil (a Tuvan stringed instrument) in addition to more typical jazz horns and percussion.
The band members themselves have converged from different musical worlds to play Cooke’s music. Koto player Shoko Hikage is, of course, deeply involved in Japanese traditional music. Cellist Alex Kelly and trombonist Jen Baker both have extensive experience with alternative rock and various forms of classical music from Baroque to contemporary. The musicians’ depth of experience in diverse settings plays out surprisingly well throughout “An Indefinite Suspension of the Possible”, as Cooke’s music never seems like an eclectic pastiche. Yet, all are convincing improvisors.
They start off with a bang “Hard 8” opens the CD an impressive blast of post-Ayler free jazz that manages to be both melodic and chaotic. I particularly enjoyed the way Hikage worked her delicate, spidery koto into the interstices between the horns and Tim Orr’s percussive fusillades. “Ha-Me’aggel” is a multi-sectioned, Klezmer-derived piece that frames Kelly’s mournful rubato cello improv between frantically rhythmic sections driven by Cooke’s skirling saxophone and Baker’s droning trombone. Oddly, Orr seems to be a bit lost on the more uptempo parts of this piece, but it all hangs together nonetheless. “Harmonic Rebellion” provides another blast of red-hot free jazz energy, with Cooke’s big-toned tenor riding crashing waves of percussion.
The remainder of the CD is surprisingly atmospheric. “Loss” is a Klezmer-tinged dirge featuring Baker, Kelly and Cooke on bass clarinet. Titled after the coordinates of the site where a late friend’s ashes were scattered, “N 36 7.46 W 121 38.36” is a slow-paced lament that intersperses bursts of heated free improv with more thoughtful ruminations. Orr is particularly effective here. “Love At Twilight” starts out with an extended rubato section which showcases Hikage’s koto, Cooke (on flute), and Kelly’s wonderfully sonorous igil. The piece gets progressively denser and more frenetic as Baker adds buzzing trombone multiphonics and Orr switches from shakers and bells to drumset.
The multi-sectioned closer “Chain of Existence” brings the quintet’s disparate ethnic, classical, jazz, and free improv elements together in surprisingly cohesive fashion. In a way, this one compelling*piece sums up what Cooke’s music is all about. The combined focus and free-wheeling energy of the free-bopping section of this piece (“Event II”) and Hikage’s gripping koto solo on “Event III” make it clear where the real strengths of the Cooke Quintet lie.Tracks:
Hard 8, Ha-Me’aggel, Loss, Love At Twilight, N 36 7.46 W 121 38.36, Harmonic Rebellion, Chain of ExistenceReviewed by: Dave Wayne
Massimo Ricci - Touching Extremes, May, 2007:
COOKE QUINTET - An indefinite suspension of the possible (Black Hat)
Michael Cooke plays all kinds of reeds (in this occasion flute, soprano, alto & tenor sax and soprano & bass clarinet), being also a composer who tries to reach a fusion point between his many influences - which include John Zorn, Klezmer and Indian music - while keeping an attentive eye on the single paths walked by the instrumental entities of his quintet (Jen Baker on trombone, didgeridoo and singing bowl, Shoko Hikage on koto, Alex Kelly on cello and igil, Timothy Orr on drums and percussion). It amounts to a nice effort by an unconventional gathering of sensitive artists, seven tracks for almost 70 minutes of music that explores various themes, not only in music but also life; as a matter of fact, two improvisations ("Loss" and "N 36 7.46' W 121 38.36") are memorials for persons that Cooke loved very much - his two grandmothers and a dear friend - and both are veiled with conscious, pensive sadness. Even the 15-minute final suite, "Chain of existence", is referred to unspecified "personal events" which affected Cooke's growth. These feelings aside, the record brims with pugnacious loquacity alternated with spiritual depth and inquisitive-minded playfulness, helped by the strange timbral juxtapositions of the ensemble. The instrumentalists know their chops inside and out but never for a moment the music sounds manufactured, getting its energy from the very interplay that these akin souls are able to continuously generate and aliment with what I'd call "devotional fantasy". A mouthful of fresh fruit for new jazz aficionados.
Craig Matsumoto - KZSU 90.1, 2007-05-05:
Free jazz led by sax/clarinet, but with lots of other elements, including some Klezmer composing influence and violin and koto in the band. Nice local stuff that tries to add some new ideas to the jazz motif. Instrumental; FCC clean.
1- Bustling swing, in a quirky, busy way.
2- A bouncy Klezmer influence: Slow start, fast segment, then midtempo groove. Second half includes a stretched-out interlude with koto(?) and bowed bass (cello): slow, often quiet.
3- Slow and mournful, with deep bowed bass (cello)
4- Slow twilight intro with "world" elements, into a nice midtempo groove. Final minute gets super quiet.
5- Sad, slowly Klezmery clarinet, into fairly intense improv. Very quiet start and end.
6- Thick and pulsing, fairly fast. Slow start catapults you into it.
7- Thumping, mid/fast groove. Quiet interlude, then a frenzied free-jazz attack. A still, quiet, koto solo, into a soft mid/fast processional ending. 15 minutes total.
David Kane -Cadence Magazine, Vol. 33 No. 6, June 2007 p. 114-115:
On (AN INDEFINITE SUSPENSION OF THE POSSIBLE) Michael Cooke leads a diverse of instrumentalists through a contrasting collection of original pieces. Besides the sax and woodwind-wielding leader, we also encounter a koto player, a trombonist who doubles on didgeridoo, a cellist who doubles on something called an igil, and a drummer. The unique instrumentation helps differentiate the music from similar groups who trade in the “new thing”. The compositions are quirky and varied and they succeed more often than they fail in leading the group into fertile improvisational spaces. The playing is energetically raw at times and glacially mournful at others with the odd sonority of the koto providing a unique counterpoint to the more-or-less standard Free-Jazz blowing. In the final analysis, the exotic timbral elements and the varied compositions gave this set a leg up on similar groups plying these same waters.
Copyright, Black Hat Records 2007. All rights reserved.