It was more than appropriate that this CD's promo sheet led off with a quote from one of my favorite Marxists, Bertolt Brecht: "Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it". That tool can be a sledge hammer, as with heavy metal groups like Black Sabbath and Rammstein, or a craftsman's fine tuning instrument ceaselessly shaping a sculpture to perfection. The latter is the case with Rob Derke and his NYJAZZ Quartet, a foursome who create Art, not just music. Each one of these guys is so out of the box that the listener is immediately shocked (and delighted) into a transport of acute listening configurations so as not to miss a note, a twist, a single convolution. Nothing here is trad or straight ahead yet neither is it free jazz but instead highly disciplined interconnective creativity zeroed in on just what an instrument is truly capable of and what expression can be when you tell the academics to go take a flying leap and just dive straight into the anterior wildernesses of your own mind.
There are chops and there are chops, and the Derke Quartet is solidly in the latter zone, evoking new vocabularies and methodologies while turning the standard catalogue on its head (catch what they do with tempo and breaks in Dispossession, for instance). Derke plies his soprano sax in the fashion Paul McCandless displayed in Oregon's high period, when those guys were taking intriguing baroquities and high-flown innovation to new heights, and bassist Carlos de Rosa is insanely good, uncategorizable, a force of nature…and I'm not speaking just of speed but also narrative singularity. Pianist Aruan Ortiz is as brilliant in comping as in playing with what seems to be four hands as drummer Eric McPherson blazes around all over the place, as peripatetic as his compeers yet managing to cement the rhythm duties so the ground beneath their feet is never compromised.
This disc is not seeing release until 2014, though I got an up-front copy in early December. Had it been a 2013 title, it would MOST definitely have made my year's Best Of along with the stunning Brouwer and Ziegler discs, also from Zoho, so think of it as my first Best Of for 2014 'cause there's no way on God's green Earth anyone's going to top it within its own unique wont. Blue Divide is one of those discs that you don't expect, and the date is a studio session but sounds 100% live, continually sparking with overflowing irrepressible energy, soundboards missing not a molecule of ambience. Man, what a great way to start the year!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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