Ben Allison – Buzz
Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel
(Palmetto – 2004)
by Paula Edelstein
Bassist, composer, Ben Allison originally recorded “Buzz” on his first CD with Medicine Wheel in 1998. With this re-work, Allison captures the sounds of New York City, NY by adding small bundles of seed pods wrapped around the strings of his acoustic bass and pennies and paper clips stuck in between the strings of the piano! This is quite an endorsement for the string manufacturers since the sounds they emanate are tasteful and melodic as opposed to being chaotic and atonal as one would expect. In addition to great string ambience, the saxophone solos add another layer of respect to this great song.
“Green Al” is a new composition and is previously unrecorded. It features Michael Blake on tenor saxophone. Coupled with Allison’s bass and Michael Sarin’s drum work, they give the listener the feeling of an evocative tone poem. Among the many stellar highlights are “Mauritania” and the seven minute “R&B Fantasy.” On the latter, Ben Allison and Medicine Wheel approach the song from a free jazz perspective even though the song is written in the classical tradition of a fantasy.
Overall, this recording surpasses Ben’s efforts on Peace Pipe since it reflects many of Ben’s diverse talents including those of scoring for the stage, reharmonizing and most of all, great-straight ahead jazz bass innovations. Check out this CD from the “sweet spot” in your entertainment center and enjoy!