By Dave Cantor | Published May 2019
On her 2010 debut, Tangent, tenor saxophonist Trish Clowes offered up a baroque vision of jazz—pithy and skronky interludes bouncing between full-ensemble improv and intimate sonic investigations.
The approach steadily has morphed into a sturdy post-bop practice with frequent detours into the electric realm and performances with the BBC Concert Orchestra. On her latest, Ninety Degrees Gravity, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama professor mashes it all together for an engaging program that spans a litany of Clowes’ musical interests.
“Abbott & Costello” isn’t brimming with slapstick and wordplay, as its name might lead listeners to believe. Instead, it’s a performance that builds quietly, determinedly, and, in part, on the fluttering multiphonic tones Clowes summons. A live recording of “Lightning Les” slowly moves from organ jam to all-out guitar shredding, recalling Medeski Martin & Wood’s partnership with John Scofield on the 1998 album A Go Go. Most of the program here, though, finds members of the quartet deploying a tender understanding of its component parts.
The only misstep might be a bit of middling vocals that introduce the otherwise engagingly broad 11-minute “Free To Fall.” But even in that, Clowes clearly is looking to incorporate just about every music she loves. So, if the composition momentarily references Gong or Soft Machine, it’s only in the interest of moving through genres to hit on some new wrinkle of creation.