Expanding Light is a compelling trio session where the ideas emerge and unfold with vehement passion. Drummer Whit Dickey, a longtime adherent of the creative downtown free jazz movement of NY, teams up here with saxophonist Rob Brown, a close collaborator for more than 30 years, and, for the first time, with the 32-year-old rising star bassist Brandon Lopez.
“The Outer Edge” kicks off the album with the bandleader flaunting an expedite work with the kick drum and creating giddy excitement through persistent and controlled cymbal textures. Brown’s imaginative zigzags are thrown in a minute, expressing melodic and rhythmic insight. The bass enters at a later time, affixing a regular pace that accelerates into an unpretentious, snappy swing. Before the final section arrives with a Dolphy-esque pose and coarse hi-hat attacks, Dickey embraces his percussive speech with elan.
An active dialogue between pizzicato bass and brushed drums occurs on “Desert Flower”. Lopez’s apparently aimless moves end up in a sturdy ritualized groove, which, with Dickey’s assistance, creates a solid base of support for Brown’s thoughtful developments.
A fluid arco bass legato permeates “Plateau” with a meditative quality but also tension. The pressure is heightened by the boldness of the percussion treatment and intricate saxophone practices that accommodates a number of spiritual moments worthy of Coltrane.
The title cut, an off-the-cuff excursion with potent layers of energy, has intertwined trajectories established by bass and drums as its most attractive feature. Accordingly, beautifully designed textures become the natural outcome of the formidable combination between loose-limbed bass articulations and crisp percussive routines.
By comparison, it’s Brown’s saxophone that is designated as the nerve center of the fervently prayerful “The Opening”. The saxophonist blows with volcanic strength and invincible perseverance while the rhythm section guarantees compact rhythmic fluxes by encapsulation of droning bowed bass and some stirring drumming.
Free jazz is in very good hands with this excellent trio.
1. The Outer Edge
2. Desert Flower
4. Expanding Light
6. The Opening
Rob Brown – alto sax
Brandon Lopez – bass
Whit Dickey – drums