On his eighth disc for Origin, mallet man Tom Collier takes a departure with a go-for-broke set of free improvisations. Joining Collier is Richard Karpen, who lends a modern classical sensibility with his bold, cascading piano excursions. A third guest is featured on each track, resulting in diverse tableaus.
A recently retired University of Washington professor, Collier has gathered notable guests who are also faculty colleagues. The disc's interplay is complex, yet the satisfying focus is on undulatiing ensemble textures.
Guitarist Bill Frisell is featured on the ethereal title track, where he's right at home exploring beautiful long tones, conjuring spacey textures and even jabbing in a few cruncher chords. In contrast, drummer Ted Poo introduces aggressive rhythmic drive on "Odious Mode," sparking the disc's wildest collective moments, while clarinetist William O. Smith is pensive and searching on "Ligneous Oscillations."
On the eerie "Out Of The Cistern," featuring trombonist Stuart Dempster, deep reverb was added and programmed to decrease incrementally over the improvisation's 15 minutes. The effect is compelling. "Discontinuous Impunity" is a standout with trumpeter Cuong Vu shaping a shifting palette of squeezing, breathy tones that eventually explodes into the most "jazz"-leaning blowing of the set. His cat-and-mouse with Collier is a rush.
The extended abstract numbers are not easily accessible; that's just the nature of the beast. But Collier succeeds in finding beauty in pieces that, although "free," feature deeply listening musicians finding unity.