One Last Revolution

Revolutionary Ensemble — Beyond the Boundary of Time (Mutable, 2008 )

source:MutableViolinist Leroy Jenkins died in 2007, which makes this 2005 recording the final Revolutionary Ensemble concert. The group was part of the ’70s loft-jazz scene and recently re-emerged for some concerts and a couple of recordings.

The CD opens with one composition from each member. Sirone‘s “Configuration” is a nice opener, starting with some excellent, knotty, unaccompanied bass and then opening up for some airy, melodic violin lines. It travels at a casual pace for a light and happy air.

Jenkins’ “Usami” is next, and while my ears might be missing something, it seems to be a duet of just him and Sirone. That’s just fine; the violin and bass duel nicely to form an involved, tangly piece.

Jerone Cooper‘s 19-minute “Le-Si-Jer” gives each member some substantial spotlight time. Jenkins opens it with fast, scratchy violin that gets joined by regal horn tones that I think Cooper plays on synth. Sirone takes a patient arco solo, and then Cooper takes over for the second half, playing chiramia (a double-reeded instrument), some drums, and some synth, often taking the instruments two at a time. The “regal” feel comes back here, as the Yamaha PSR 1500 puts forth some grand, sprawling chords.

It’s all wonderful music, but I’m more captivated by the two improvsations that close the album. The first opens with cool pecking and popping from the strings, later building into a blurry frenzy with vicious violin. The second source: All About Jazzactually gets into a light groove on Cooper’s drums, while Sirone burbles along on bass and Jenkins tosses out small, carefree flutters on violin.

Like most jazz trios, this is a democratic affair, but you can’t help but hear the lead voice most strongly — the violin, in this case. I find myself thinking back not to other Revolutionary Ensemble albums, but to Jenkin’s album, Solo, which came out on Lovely Music in 1998. It’s a live set packed with the kind of fleet and strident high notes Jenkins seems to favor, played in squeaky clusters and runs, showing off a style that’s derived from classical but rich with the freedom and spontaneity of jazz. He even opens the set with the classically tinged “Blues #1,” a terrific display of what Jenkins could do in a formal, tonal setting. (The same goes for “Folk Song,” played on viola.) The set closes with a free-wheeling take on “Giant Steps,” played to enthusiastic applause. It’s a nice way to remember Jenkins and makes for a good nightcap after enjoying Beyond the Boundary of Time.