CD We Are Not at the Opera (CD 913335),
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We Are Not at the Opera
1. Rejoicing New Dreams
2. Musically Correct
3. Clandestine, Giant
4. Too Many Drummers, Not Enough Time
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 014
Personnel: Sunny Murray (drums); Sabir Mateen (alto & tenor saxophones, flute).
Recorded in Amherst, Massachusetts on June 27, 1998.
Personnel: Sunny Murray (drums); Sabir Mateen (flute, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone).
Liner Note Author: Scott Cashman.
Recording information: Amherst Unitarian Meetinghouse, Amherst, MA (06/27/1998); Live-Amherst Unitarian Meetinghouse, Amherst, MA (06/27/1998).
Photographer: Scott Cashman.
Whoa. Look out. When you look at the cover you know the sh*t is gonna hit the fan when this old master of the vanguard drumming tradition hooks up with the "gentle giant" of the alto, the tenor, and the flute. Sabir Mateen may not be as well-known as Sunny Murray is, but he's every bit as effective and iconoclastic. The title of the album is funny; they aren't even in the same country that opera comes from -- even though Murray lives near there. So what have you got? Drums, drums, drums, and more drums. When Murray plays you can feel, as Annette Peacock put it in an interview, that there are at least 12 children inhabiting one adult body. He is everywhere creating, each time he plays, notions of polyrhythm and textural tonality that haven't existed before the moment he rolled them off his sticks onto the kit. His ability to produce contrapuntal invention is so effortless and instinctual you can feel Mateen, who is no lightweight, struggle to keep up with the flow. There are four improvisations lasting just under an hour with their own titles, and those titles don't mean a damned thing. What matters is the flow, the back-and-forth creation of a tidal wave of sound. It is a blowing session, sure, but you knew that coming in. The most surprising thing is, given Mateen's own musically explosive personality, how wide the dynamic range of expression is on this set. There are near silences within the rush of activity, there are moments of sublime noisemaking, and tonal agonies produced only by the passionate awareness of the other's emotion. And Mateen tries to rein it all in; he attempts to keep some sort of post-bop modal framework on the whole thing. He's doomed to fail and knows it, but just the attempt is enough to keep Murray dancing, searching for those very polyrhythms that will knock him off the mat and make him play catch-up in a new way. This is a playful disc, one of ideas and fierce counterpoint, but one rooted in the warmth of creative exchange. ~ Thom Jurek
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