It was obvious with last year's Love that trombonist Reginald Cyntje is not one to be held back by convention for very long, and this year's Elements of Life sees no conceivable future in which that might happen either. The very first cut, Elements of Life, commences as joyous fanfare folk-jazz a la Zawinul, then steps into an abstract Latinate pulse for a bit before cooling the breezes West Coast style, making way for Cyntje's solo barefoot boppin' along an afternoon shoreline. All along, Amin Gumbs' drumwork is jubilant and crucial, and, though this is Cyntje's gig, he nowhere egotizes, giving plenty of space to everyone to strut their stuff, which they readily do, ever propelling the songs forward. His charts are judiciously rendered and democratically determined.
The premise of the new CD is an integration of the five elements of the planet—Earth, Sky, Fire, Water, and Wind—into the Divine Principle, and individual track characteristics shift to reflect impressions of implicit energies contained by those primal building blocks. The lengthy Sky (12:26) yields the most ground to improv, so the track first bottoms out in the soil below the clouds and then leaps into the windswept far reaches of cirrus and strato-cumulus formations, especially in Cyntje's early soloing, a little later in Vic Provost's pointillisms on steel pan, and finally, late in the composition, in scatty vocal melisma. One of Cyntje's gifts is to make the heavy side of things readily liftable and all the evanescent facets meaningful through context. Plenty of that resides in each cut, so you can start the disc wherever you please and harbor zero fears of interrupting concept flow.
When this trombonist sits down to write, he hasn't just songs in mind but panoramas, wide visio-sonic milieux to be committed to process and fleshed out as vividly as possible. Thus, when you grab hold of one of his releases, you're not buying a collective of songs but a huge mural flowing from baseline comps shaped as they pass through many hands. At the bottom of it all, though, is the smiling grinning Cyntje, hiding in plain sight but quite self-effacing. That's why I again insist this time around, as I did last time, that he should be ambushed, thrown into a studio in quartet format, and not allowed to leave until his democratic impulses are forced into surrender for at least one whole CD, emblazoning his chops up front where they'll herald a new age of the trombone. That act has long been needed, and he's just the guy to do it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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