The fact that this CD had John Clark on french horn was all I needed to know. No matter what, it HAD to be a good disc. I have a lot of ECM sides, but his Faces remains one of my all-time faves on the label (and, Christ, with Dave Friedman, David Darling, and Jon Christenson in the foursome…YOW!), a stand-out of modern not-quite-classifiable chamber jazz. Well, alto saxist Matt Crisuolo is another cat who weds the past to the future in a liquid today, and Blippity Blat is just as impigeonholable. Blending be-bop with straight ahead with chamber with sideways neoclassical, he writes charts that jump from a 50s foundation all the way to an island kingdom just over the horizon, one that's dedicated itself to the non-cliché and cerebrally advanced.
That ain't easy to do, y'all, but the result is like a 13-course repast of subtle and overt flavors weaving headily in and out of the palette, causing an eyebrow to arch, a smile to paint itself, and an epicurean sigh to escape all diner-listeners. Ironically enough, Criscuolo owns several well-noted restaurants in Connecticut, so no metaphors are being tortured here, just beckonings to sit at the sonic table. The key to the level of intelligence, though, lies in, among a raft of his own tunes, the choice of Wayne Shorter's Dance Cadaverous, as Matt's plane of exposition is quite similar to Wayne's…with a bit of Arthur Blythe as well, depending on where his head's at at the moment. Then catch the early period Weather Reporty Ronnie's Tune, replete with a Jaco-esque solo from bassist Gerald Cannon.
Criscuolo and Clark, besides grabbing engaging solos, harmonize smoothly to carry the melodies forward before elegantly splintering them. Pianist Larry Willis catches and transitions their inventions, then tosses angular solos into the mix while drummer Billy Williams constructs sound cages with opening and closing doors (particularly in The Rock, a cut written by Willis) upon shifting foundations. The balladic Cadaverous is perhaps the most staid of the collection here, but it packs quite a few twists and bends nonetheless. More than once you'll muffle a surprised "Whoa!" as the band leashes itself to refract a free jazz periphery back into what becomes nearly Romantic, a tricky little proposition that must've frayed a few brain cells to write so adeptly. Hardly needs to be noted, then, that nowhere in Blippity Blat (way righteous title!) will you find your attention wandering
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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