By Brian Zimmerman | Published 2017
There’s a concentrated energy in the music of Kate Gentile, and the percussionist’s latest album, Mannequins, finds that energy channeled through multiple conduits: clamorous acoustic free-jazz, searing heavy metal and stormy electro-noise. On the whole, her compositions, which are frenetic and alive, serve as incubators for rapturous improvisation and rhythmic daring. Even through moments of levity and sparseness, the music retains taut suspense. It’s an aesthetic Gentile honed through years of collaboration with some of the most brilliant minds in creative music, including Kris Davis, Anna Weber, Chris Speed, Anthony Braxton and John Zorn. Mannequins features a well-credentialed band: Jeremy Viner (reeds), Adam Hopkins (bass) and Matt Mitchell (piano, Prophet 6 and electronics). Together, these four musicians create a footprint that is much larger than its individual parts. The opener, “Stars Covered In Clouds Of Metal,” demonstrates the quartet’s formal elasticity, with Mitchell’s electronics sounding like a chorus of distorted guitars against Gentile’s jagged, furious beat. “Hammergaze” shifts the emphasis toward texture and shadow, its ghostly drones, unhindered by time and tempo, creating a mesmeric swirl. Pieces like “Wrack” and “Alchemy Melt [With Tilt]” recall the earthy soulfulness of Ornette Coleman’s early avant work; there’s a nebulous sense of swing that undergirds Viner’s thrilling, audacious tenor lines. As a composer and performer, Gentile demonstrates a strong command of rhythmic intricacy and a cunning musical discernment. She’s developing a signature sound. Expect to hear more of it soon.