April 20, 2024

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CD review: Blue Reality Quartet! – Ella’s Island 2022: Video, CD cover

Michael Marcus, Joe McPhee, Warren Smith and Jay Rosen return to the studio with Blue Reality Quartet. After a much lauded debut in 2021, the quartet reconvene for a reprise of the sweet, multitextural improvised composition fans and critics alike raved about on their first release.

While this is only the second in-studio meeting of this all-star group, the connections between its members run deep. In 2018, jazz musician extraordinaire Michael Marcus got an invite to bring his duo with drummer Jay Rosen to the Austrian venue Jazzgalerie Nickelsdorf. And when he arrived, the promoter of their show sprung a novel idea on them: performing their set with fellow reedsman Joe McPhee and another drummer. “It was a great concept,” Marcus remembers. “And the chemistry was really good.”

So much so that Marcus wanted to capture the sound of this unusual group—two horns and two percussionists improvising without a bass player or a piano or any other chordal instruments—on record. But with the drummer they played with in Austria unavailable to travel, Marcus, Rosen, and McPhee called on their friend and collaborator Warren Smith. And the Blue Reality Quartet was born.

Though much of the music herein is freely composed, listeners are greeted with a relaxed, comfortable feeling. This may be one of the most accessible and enjoyable free improvisation dates you’ll ever hear, even if you’re not usually drawn to the avant-garde.

01. Ethereal Spirits Divine
02. The Beginning of Time
03. Minefields in Opulence
04. This Here Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues
05. Butter Cup (for Bud Powell)
06. Low & Slow
07. Ella’s Island
08. Wis Vibrations (for vibraphone)
09. Never Ending Worlds

Joe McPhee – tenor sax, percussion
Warren Smith – vibraphone, percussion
Michael Marcus – reeds
Jay Rosen – drums

Blue Reality Quartet - Ella's Island - CD – Rough Trade

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