Weary Already of the Way
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Chicago-based tenor saxophonist Matt Bauder brought together an impressive lineup for his debut recording, Weary Already of the Way. The sextet includes Todd Margasak and Rob Mazurek on cornets, newcomer Aram Shelton on alto and clarinet, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Jason Roebke on bass, and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello. Although it was recorded live, the pieces were largely built in the studio, layering and processing the raw material until it resembled the classic electronic and tape compositions of European composers like Bernard Parmegiani(especially his jazz-tape fusion on Pop'eclectic) as much as the ancient to the future Chicago tradition of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the AACM. The processing is most evident at the beginning of the first piece, although it returns throughout the CD. Even through the gauzy clicking edits and disembodied call-and-response tones of the four nameless pieces on the disc, Bauder's playing is central to the action. His tone is stunning for a relatively young tenor saxophonist, vibrating with hiss and low overtones throughout the album like a less linear Ellery Eskelin. And like Eskelin, although more guarded in his delivery, Bauder has an ear for a good melodic line. At several points there are grand melodic buildups with group arrangements that would make Charlie Mingus proud and Willem Breuker jealous. The rest of the ensemble are no less impressive, with Roebke and Lonberg-Holm locking in for lush, droning chords while Mazurek and Margasak offer up tense staccato signals. Bishop and Shelton serve as anchor between the strings and horns, but with the unusual studio composition techniques involved here and a self-conscious lack of soloing, all the players really do become one, giving way to an almost egoless group sound. Ending with the same pulses that introduce the album, Weary Already of the Way is an impressive debut and while it functions quite well as a whole, if there is any fault to be found here it might be that it tries to tackle too many ideas. Bauder has thrown down quite a heavy gauntlet, one that suggests a plethora of paths that the new leader will hopefully return to explore.