Carl Grubbs 4tet: Stepping Around the Giant (2003)
Closing ranks with the brighly rendered title track, the quartet takes the tonal centers of Trane’s “Giant Steps” as their shared springboard. Grubbs solos first, crafting a highly personalized tribute to the composer through a verbose series of high register note streams. Pope follows, incorporating more space and a smoother tone into phrasings that cover the same territory as his partner, but at a decidedly different lope. Sullivan annexes some space for plucked statement steeped with his own wordless singing, and Baker brings up the rear with a salvo of press rolls that proves the model of muscular economy. The two “Sax Talk” pieces showcase the saxophones sans rhythm and each one is a starling display of empathic listening coupled with sustained improvisation. Both men traffic in bouts of impressive circular breathing in solo and tandem, but the extended reed techniques never compromise the musicality of their endeavors. There are sections where the saxophonists seem to be telepathically in tune, finishing and acccentuating each other’s lines as often as they advance their own. Brief moments of stasis do creep in, but for the most part the performances are remarkably sustained over their strenuous durations.
Sandwiched snugly between the two tour de forces, “July” features the full quartet galloping through another of Grubb’s melodically charged creations. Sullivan stands out again with a nimble touch in both ensemble and solo settings, and Barker’s drums maintain a multidirectional momentum throughout. Miles Davis’s “Four” supplies further fodder for spirited blowing and the quartet attacks the bop standard with a voracious improvisatory élan. Listening to this music, it's difficult to fathom why Grubbs has so long been relegated to the hinterlands of scrutiny. With luck this CIMP offering will facilitate deserving ingress for him back into the fold and a renaissance for a career that never should have stalled.
CIMP on the web: http://www.cadencebuilding.com
Track Listing: Stepping Around the Giant/ Betty Jo and David/ Sax Talk II/ July/ Sax Talk/ Kai
Personnel: Carl Grubbs- alto saxophone; Odean Pope- tenor saxophone; Chris Sullivan- bass; Newman Taylor Barker- drums. Recorded: July 30 & 31, 2002, Rossie, NY.
Record Label: CIMP Records
Style: Modern Jazz