Things just keep getting better and better for the trombone, y'all. Not only is it on the way back, but Mssrs. Michael Lake and Gerry Pagano both play the instrument, forming the center of Roads Less Traveled, a frontline duet on the slidey instrument that, to me, is one of the true hearts of jazz. Even more, what sounds like band accompaniment is really just them, multi-synched, expanding the soundfield, with Lake playing alto and Pagano plying bass 'bone. Lake also covers keyboards, percussion, and sound design—which, here, is not only crucial but exceedingly well shaped—especially when cuts blossom out into horn orchestras. That's right: there's only ever two musicians present but sometimes it sounds like there's 100. Literally.
Though Lake studied with Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton (a god), and other Art Ensemblers, this isn't a free jazz gig, though it's definitely experimental in many ways and always adventurous. I was very pleasantly shocked to see Tangerine Dream's Love on a Real Train (from , of all sources, the Risky Business flick) included in the repertoire, as that's been one of my fave Dream cuts in a large catalogue of killer work from a favorite band since Phaedra ('74). Love is highly serial, Terry Riley influenced, Soft Machiney, and here given a short but great reading. Had they devoted the entire CD to this recitation, I'd've complained not a whit, especially as the gents interpolate elements of Reich & Matheny's Different Trains into the mix.
I also dug the hell out of their take on Mingus' The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines (and tell me that ain't one of the all-time great song titles, Gomer!), a mix of prime era stylistics within an almost avant-garde framework just slightly out of reach. Again, there's a lot of hornwork going on, every inch of it supplied by just the two jazzbos. Lake's own The Ecuadorian Two-Step is similar, a romp between a number of modes spanning decades but much too short for my complete satisfaction (c'mon, Mikey, ya got the compositional chops…trot 'em out!!), though all is forgiven when a slinky slurry Georgia steps in, kinda echoing the earlier twist on Amazing Grace, the best rendition, outside its own gospelly desmesnes, I've heard in a long time. My favorite cut, though? Well, after Love, it'd be Diz's Night in Tunisia. Why? Well, 'cause it's…just…effin'…excellent and sophisticatedly suh-wingin'.
Oh…waitaminnit…I'm just getting into Lake & Pagano's own I Wuz Gazin' at the Cajun, and it's way the hell cool too, like something ya'd hear on an Asylum Street Spankers CD, so, hmm, maybe I need to nudge Diz aside and…aw, fuggedaboutit, I can't really pick a most-favored track, there's just too much good stuff here.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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