By Aaron Cohen | Published November 2020
Saxophonist Geof Bradfield, clarinetist Ben Goldberg and drummer Dana Hall keep things compact here. But the group’s energy, sharp writing and quick thinking across 11 relatively short tracks on General Semantics offer a plethora of ideas.
Their dialogue immediately enlivens Goldberg’s “Last Important Heartbreak Of The Year.” The three gently goad each other—Hall picking up steam as Goldberg’s clarinet responds to Bradfield’s tenor cues. Then it turns into the kind of collective improvisation that suggests what could have resulted if Jimmy Giuffre spent more time in New Orleans. The trio emphasizes the exuberance in presenting an instrumental arsenal that deviates from standard small jazz ensembles, not least of which is the absence of a chordal anchor. Goldberg’s contra-alto clarinet implies the bass on a take of Duke Ellington’s “Half The Fun.” At the same time, Hall conveys as many different melodic colors as five woowinds. While they direct each other through a few wide-ranging interpretations—including Cecil Taylor’s landmark “Air”—no single player dominates.
General Semantics: Air; Tioga Street Zenith; Last Important Heartbreak Of The Year; Lamentation; Hit Flip Switch; General Semantics; Half The Fun; 3-4-5; 8 De Augusto; Never Met A Stranger; Under And Over. (50:14)
Personnel: Geof Bradfield, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Ben Goldberg, B-flat clarinet, contra-alto clarinet; Dana Hall, drums, percussion.