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Kohlhase-Wertman-Grassi Trio
NORTH COUNTRY PIE
(CIMP)
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A mere 20 years or so ago, in the late í70s and early í80s, this kind of "free" bare-bones sax-and-rhythm section was the newest sound around; by now itís as familiar as bebop. Saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase, bassist David Wertman, and drummer Lou Grassi hark back to the likes of Oliver Lake, Jimmy Lyons, David Murray, Steve Lacy, Air, and various AACM permutations. That is, the squall and bomp of free jazz is tethered to variable song form, blues connotations, and chord progressions and meters that can be adhered to or not as the moment dictates. And good God, itís still yummy, invigorating stuff.

Kohlhase is a familiar fixture on the Boston scene as both bandleader and sideman, and heís such a self-effacing ensemble player in these other contexts that itís easy to forget what a commanding presence he can be when heís the lone horn. On Wertmanís "Sky," he plays the long-lined AABA theme over the composerís funky ostinato pattern and Grassiís driving cross-rhythms, then takes off on an alto solo of relentless invention, building off rhythmic figures, scales, and progressions and mixing up long-arced phrases with staccato bursts, until you can almost sense him gulping the music, each new phrase spontaneously generated from the last.

Wertman and Kohlhase split the writing on these nine tracks. Verse-chorus tunefulness and riffs that lodge in your head anchor free tonalities and what abstract artists like to call a "variety of mark making," from Wertmanís skittering bow work and sliding double stops to Grassiís dry mallet-and-cymbal colorations. You can hear this trio listening hard to one another every inch of the way.

BY JON GARELICK


Issue Date: August 8 - August 14, 2003
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