Rob Brown Ensemble
With its opening bass/drum/piano groove, this album serves as a kind of rabbit hole into the world of experimental jazz. But rather than drop you straight into chaotic sensory overload, alto saxophonist Rob Brown and his cohorts carry you along gradually. So that by the time you get to the end of the first song, an 11-minute piece entitled "Rocking Horse," you get a sense of having gone somewhere much like you would after finishing an absorbing work of film, drama, or literature. The band, initially assembled for a one-off performance at the 2006 installment of New York's annual Vision Festival, builds tension slowly, masterfully holding steady even as the individual players establish motifs only to let them come unglued. From there, Brown and the band — drummer Gerald Cleaver, pianist Craig Taborn, and visionary bassist/longtime Brown collaborator William Parker — do take the listener further and further from shore (such as on the heady, zero-gravity atmosphere of "Sonic Ecosystem," which buzzes with free-floating electronic noise). Nonetheless, part of what makes Crown Trunk Root Funk so special is that the "funk" in the title isn't a misnomer. Between the four of them, Brown, Parker, Taborn, and Cleaver display plenty of seasoned exploratory hunger, taking risks with an instinct that matches their fire — but they also use grooves as the launching pad for their shared language of abstraction. At the end of the day, Crown Trunk Root Funk truly does feel funky.
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