Personnel: Mat Walerian (flute, alto saxophone); Matthew Shipp (piano); Hamid Drake (drums).
Liner Note Author: William Parker .
Recording information: Okuden Music Concert Series (11/19/2012).
Photographer: Michal Stankowski.
Following the Mat Walerian-Matthew Shipp duo set (as the Uppercut), Live at Okuden from 2015, comes this double-length second volume from Jungle, which adds drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake. This is Walerian's second date as a leader for ESP-Disk. Though the track sequence contains 13 titles, the music unfolds as a series of multi-movement suites rather than -- as the initial recording did -- a single improvisation. The music ranges from free-flowing avant, modal, post-bop to folk and chamber-influenced jazz, with plenty of soloing from all players. While the Uppercut set was remarkable for its interiority and canny intimacy, Jungle: Live at Okuden expands vastly, with wider, more extroverted conversational interplay. Walerian uses his flute to a greater extent here. His shakuhachi-style has been extrapolated to embrace modernism, but his economic sense of melody is his own. Shipp not only underscores and journeys from it, but expands it as well. The pianist is striking in his contrapuntal vamping, sometimes brooding, sometimes colorful arpeggios and bold, expansive chord voicings that imprint his mark as a composer on the proceedings. Drake holds a special place in this lineup. He has been playing with Walerian the longest and instinctively knows when to lead and follow in this group, his musicality is the unit's bridge and employs illustration and force. The first series of pieces offers the brief, moody, flute-driven meditation "Shine," which grows outward toward a more circular engagement on "Teleport" and gradually begets the explosive "Gentle Giants," where Walerian picks up his saxophone and skronks his way deep into the blues. Summing these three up, "123 Sylvester 230CE" balances modal and dissonant blues in a frame enhanced by Drake's circular grooves (on every part of his kit) as Shipp blocks out enormous, suggestively swinging exploratory chords. On disc two, "Gate" commences as a long saxophone exercise in breath control and timbral expression. When Shipp enters, it's with tempered middle-register chords complemented by shimmering rumbles from Drake. It gently evolves in melody, tension, and drama until the pianist claims the center and tentatively introduces "One For," a long, inside-out read of a traditional nursery rhyme. The vibrant saxophone solo weaves through Coltrane, Dolphy, Sanders, and Ayler without sacrificing the tune's inherent lyricism. Shipp lays down a four-chord riff that contains a bassline and extrapolated harmonics. Drake creates pace, infers color, and introduces provocative new directions for his partners. The nearly 19-minute "Coach On Da Mic" weaves together intense Monk-esque lyric interplay with Debussy-ian harmony and a plethora of folk-dance rhythms that recall similar experiments by Charles Mingus. And it's where Jungle shine as an ensemble: they effortlessly weave through tempos, modes, and tonal changes to discover a holistic music that celebrates its various seams like a mandala. The second Live at Okuden is every bit as vibrant as the first. Walerian's tone, inventive phrasing, and keen sense of how and when to mix and match musical traditions, is well-suited to the always adventurous, genre-blurring playing and improvising of his partners. ~ Thom Jurek