Jack Gold-Molina Trio
Sol Disk 0309
Recorded in September, 2003 for a broadcast on The Tunnel for KSER radio in Everett, but not released until this year, Colored Houses is an excellent and adventurous 77 minute album of entirely improvised music. Drummer and Sol Disk owner Jack Gold-Molina's highly integrated and cohesive trio, which is comprised of saxophonist Michael Monhart and bassist Michael Bisio, has produced an album of highly organic music; it unfolds and evolves naturally, changing directions, dynamics, textures and moods with ease. Each player exhibits sizable chops. Monhart, who plays soprano, tenor and baritone, provides most of the album's color palette. His array of tenor shrieks, wails, warbles and cries on the opener "Throwing Stones" demonstrates why the tenor is the closest instrument to emulating the human voice. An active Gold-Molina, who hints at but rarely locks into a consistent pulse, supports the vocalesque-ing Monhart while Bisio groups his walking bass line notes sometimes in twos, sometime in threes. This implies compound or mixed meter, but as soon as the listener grasps onto this, the meter morphs or dissolves as quickly as it appeared. Bisio, who is all over his bass from end peg to scroll, introduces the nineteen minute "Uppercut" with a lengthy solo. Monhart's monstrous baritone provides plenty of fury here and when he switches to tenor he adds violent honks and skronks to the fold. The final two tracks, "Colored Houses" and "Through Autumn," feature a more subdued Monhart on tenor. The former, after several minutes dominated by Monhart, ends with Bisio instigating agitation, which Monhart contributes to. On the latter, Gold-Molina's mallets provide a very sparse accompaniment to Monhart's more meditative statements. The group excels at trading and developing melodic and rhythmic ideas into substantive statements. This is most dramatically apparent on the thirty two minute "Water Lilies," that's long, grand narrative contains a meaning that only it knows. An innocent interval, which Monhart introduces on soprano early in the piece, reappears after drum and arco bass solos about fifteen minutes in. This second incarnation finds the interval transformed into a definable and beautiful folk-like melody, which I found myself humming long after the album ended. Bisio appropriates and inverts some of its motives and his interaction with Monhart during this stretch is highly creative and captivating. Colored Houses probably won't appeal to those with more traditional tastes, but listeners who thirst for less conventional fare would do well to check it out. Conceptually, there's nothing on it that hasn't been consistently mined over the last forty years, so it's not as experimental or "out" as one might think, but that doesn't stop it from being a consistently engaging, creative and rewarding work that yields new gems on each successive listen. For those interested in beginning to explore avant-garde jazz, Colored Houses would be a great starting point, as it is easily one of the strongest discs of this still young year, and it will no doubt hold up as one of 2009's finest releases.
Jack Gold-Molina and the Trio Form Today
The pianoless jazz trio of horn (usually sax), bass and drums had auspicious beginnings when Sonny Rollins showed up at the Village Vanguard in the late '50s with such a configuration. The gig and the several recordings of it that followed were enormously influential. Rollins demonstrated convincingly that if you did away with the usual piano component you were freed of the harmonic strictures that the comping keyboard imposed. The bass player became especially critical through the implications of his note selection, and a looser rhythmic interaction became more the norm. Most importantly the horn soloist gained the freedom to play in, out and around any implied harmonic structures. Linear line weaving was infinitely more feasible, and this was a boon for Rollins and his so-called thematic improvisational tendencies. As time went by, the trio form of musical gathering became ever more popular with musicians. And with the burgeoning of free playing, the horn-bass-drums trio has become a mainstay for jazz akin to, say, the string quartet in the concert music scene. So when drummer Jack Gold-Molina puts together such a trio, as featured in his recent CD Colored Houses (Sol Disk), he brings into play the history of what groups have done with this format, or undone. He invites comparisons. "That's all very well," you might think. "What does this trio do that's fantastic and why should I care?" OK, I'm getting to that. Whatever an ordinary trio might actually be, Jack's trio is not that. First off, Mr. Gold plays tastefully with abundant density. That's the advantage for a drummer of being the leader. I have often felt uncomfortable with those leaders who tend to squelch continual percussive contributions of the overt sort in their groups. That's a shame. Of course not every drummer is up to it. But think of Trane with Elvin, Miles with Tony or DeJohnette. The out-front presence of a great drummer can bring a band to a much higher plane than what sometimes results when the more discrete accompaniment is demanded. If a drummer bashes, so he bashes. What a great drummer who is freed up to really play can do for a group is not to be easily dismissed. Think of Baby Dodds and his solo demo album, for example, versus what he was allowed to play on those early recording sessions (mostly for technical reasons, supposedly. The inscribing needle was allegedly said to jump at loud percussive thwacks. Perhaps too the record executives of the day didn't understand the music and tried to "clean it up" a bit? I don't know.) On the gig (recordings of which alas there are no surviving examples) Dodds must have kicked King Oliver and Louis to the heavens, I'll bet. The point is that Jack Gold-Molina is one of those drummers who is most benefited by being given a free hand. And the band gets that impact. Second, bassist Michael Bisio is a killer. With bow or with fingers, he brings a BIG contribution into this group. I won't go into his other activities these days, save to say that his recent quartet and trio recordings have been exemplary (see my other blog at the Gapplegate site for that). He has a great rhythmic sense and interweaves through the proceedings with lines that help drive the music to very good places. Then there's Michael Monhart on soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones. One of the biggest tributes one can give is to say that somebody doesn't sound like anybody else. He doesn't. His free inventiveness forms the critical third component to the musical totality of Colored Houses. I am not going to say that this is the seminal free jazz album of the year. It's too early in the year at any rate. What it is, is a lengthy excursion of three thoughtful yet forceful players into a territory that is thoroughly of the moment. Music for today. Very good music for today and I think it will sound just as good, or better, tomorrow.
JACK GOLD-MOLINA TRIO – Colored Houses
Besides being a drummer who sounds as bad intentioned as wisely inclined towards the clever decomposition of regular pulses, Gold-Molina is the man behind Sol Disk, the label on which this fiercely unapologetic CD is published. In this occasion, he is flanked by Michael Bisio on bass and Michael Monhart on soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones. This is one of those albums who meet my unconditional approval since the very first notes heard, as one instantly detects a genuine will of exploring the soul of the music in a way that is both radical and linked to some kind of primeval root. There's a shamanistic quality to the playing, the performers stopping on certain figures to launch themselves into the spirals of repetitive patterns and interlocking rhythms, that directly connects their heart to the improvisational core. Gold-Molina leaves us flummoxed with a constant change in the percussive flow, utilizing mechanics of expression that discard the obviously bewitching aspects of free drumming to enhance the spiritual quintessence of an everlasting uninhibited groove. Bisio offers a spectacular performance, especially when using the arco over the course of long droning mantras (such as in "Water Lilies") and extended fragments of melodic fearlessness, a timbre inflexibly rooted in a fertile ground of significant achievements, a lexicon - as ever - definitely unique. Monhart exalts every nuance of his reeds, transmitting signals of perturbation and raking the remnants of expository melody to generate anti-themes and solos completely disengaged from classic formulas, a well-visible star in an already extraordinarily clear sky. Records like Colored Houses prove that there's still hope for emotional reaction when listening to a jazz album. Extremely recommended.
Jack Gold-Molina Trio