Previously on Origin Records, Hal Galper had recorded Furious Rubato. Well, Galper's playing still comes across as furious and often as rubato. That seems to be its natural state now that he was developed his own individualistic aesthetic after 40 years of accompanying some of the most respected leaders in jazz, staying in the background for and complementing the styles of the horn players like Phil Woods and Chet Baker. The fury of Galper's playing now, a whirlwind unto itself, would sweep away the urgent swing of Woods or the soft melodies of Baker. Even as ruminative a piece as the Miles Davis/Bill Evans "Blue in Green" submits to Galper's forceful attack, as he sprinkles clusters of notes without meter, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Rashied Ali following Galper's lead. With a hard percussive attack, Galper, even in subdued circumstances, played with imagination and force. "Stella by Starlight" too bristles with unexpected embellishments, and often swing, but it never recedes into wistfulness. The energy of this trio apparently knows little restraint in its dynamism, even on the ballads.
Galper's most recent CD?out of more than four score throughout the expanse of his career?derives from a live performance in February 2007 at William Paterson University in New Jersey. While it can't be determined how much interactivity with the audience fed the trio's fire that night, Galper's group played with fierce determination throughout. Perhaps the hyphenated title of the album suggests Galper's aesthetic belief that art is a result not just of talent, but also of work. Certainly, Galper dedicated himself to incessant practicing, particularly during his sabbatical during this decade to refine his style and to make it even more furious and less tethered to time constraints. Certainly, Workman and Ali share Galper's in-the-moment outpouring of feeling and thought, their having separately performed with John Coltrane as well as other successive explorative groups. Indeed, the opening number of the album is the tribute piece, "Take the Coltrane." With such a line-up of personnel, anything can happen. And does.
In addition to the usually quieter standards, Galper lets loose the furious rubato on "Constellation," which fractures into free improvisation, fast paced and thunderous, as it departs from the song's well-defined melody, and indeed evidently its recognizable harmonic structure, though both remain as guideposts for the explosive tumult. Even "Take the Coltrane," which starts conventionally enough, evolves into aggressively accented broad chords and oblique harmonic lines as Workman and Ali, long accustomed to such freedom, pursue complementary but separate pathways. A twice-employed device in this concert is improvisation governed by the changes of well-known standards, though with slight twists of their names, when the trio proceeds along its own parallel avenues on "Soul Bod" and "When Autumn Leaves Us." Actually, Galper's interpretations of "Body and Soul" and "Autumn Leaves" are more like bifurcations than side-by-side similaries, for his improvisations grow organically like limbs from the original songs, ever more complex through geometrical expansion from their trunks. And then Galper plays a "Soliloquy," his own tribute to Michael Brecker, who, along with Randy Brecker, performed in Galper's group on the Reach Out and Children of the Night albums. With a lighter touch but still with an emotional charge, Galper musically recalls the youthful excitement of their music from the seventies and the changes that have occurred since then.
Due to Galper's passion for music and his total immersion in the rewards of performing, perhaps a live recording provides the optimal circumstances for appreciating the recent work involved in his art. That circumstance certainly provides its reward for his trio's extraordinary performance recorded for his most recent Origin CD.