By Robert Ham | Published April 2019
The city of Chicago long has been a hub for the adventurous side of jazz, producing avant-garde legends like Lester Bowie and Anthony Braxton. That spirit still is thriving today as evidenced by this awe-inspiring recording from the modern-day supergroup Madness Of Crowds. Boasting a lineup that includes multi-instrumentalist Joe Adamik, bassist Matt Lux and tenor saxophonist Nate Lepine, this debut four-song release is the product of a five-hour improvisation by the ensemble that was winnowed down to two 20-minute segments and a pair of sound collages created from their efforts.
Drawing on the feel of ’70s-era Miles Davis, the sonic reference should nudge the door open for some listeners, helping them to take a leap of faith into this sonic maelstrom.
Madness Of Crowds utterly delights in the piercing atonal sounds that dominate the opening half of “Witch Mania,” as Jim Baker’s synth squeals and smears tones, and a heavily processed guitar covers over an otherwise head-bobbing groove. It’s only when Lepine’s tenor solo cuts through the mix that things settle and the textures of the music take on more clarity. The title track, by contrast, begins as an elongated riff on the opening moments of “A Love Supreme” before snapping into an elastic groove that gathers intensity as it tumbles forward.
Each spin of Tulips reveals new details and tonal properties, and will bring out further resonances of the unbridled joy that was coursing through the studio when the ensemble joined forces for single glorious afternoon. But Tulips also reminds listeners that more musicians should dare to challenge themselves like this.
Tulips: Economic Bubbles; Witch Mania; Alchemist; Tulips. (50:42)
Personnel: Joe Adamik, drums, electronics; Jim Baker, ARP synthesizer, piano, Fender Rhodes; Nate Lepine, tenor, soprano saxophones, flute; Matt Lux, electric bass, electronics; Brian Sandstrom, acoustic bass, guitar, trumpet.