Brian Groder’s Pickup Band

Groder & Greene — s/t (Latham, 2009)

A brisk session of free jazz from some terrific modern players.  I first heard of trumpeter Brian Groder on the album Torque, where his backing band with Sam Rivers‘ trio (with Sam Rivers included).   Here, he’s got another crackerjack band, with pianist Burton Greene up front.

“Landfall” opens things with a late-night feel, between the piano chords and the crisp trumpet.  It passes for a normal modern-jazz composition until things start to break down, getting into a free-jazz rumble as its middle section of “solos.”  Then, like curtains parting, the late-night sound descends back into the foreground.  It’s a nicely organized track, and a standout.

“Nigh” is another fun one, with Ray Sage’s drums setting up a straight grooving rhythm.  Groder and saxophonist Rob Brown bleat out free jazz lines, separately or overlapping, for a few minutes, just enjoying the beat. Greene jumps in on piano a little later to really crack things open.

Then you’ve got the straight-out goofing around of “Hey Pithy, Can You Thropt the Erectus,” which includes someone (Greene?) spitting out disdainful little spoken phrases.

“Separate Being” ends up in more disjoint territory, particularly when Greene goes off on a faux-ragtime piano jaunt during everybody else’s blocky free-jazz-improv phase. On “Amulet,” the band goes all-out abstract (although Greene adds some more old-timey jazz for kicks). It’s a spacious track dominated by prepared piano, plinking along with a stacatto rubber-band sound. Adam Lane‘s thick bass and Sage’s drums add plenty of meat without getting too cluttered.

(A word about Lane on bass — he’s a real treat here, as always. The springing, ever-shifting lines he comes up with in the intro to “Only the Now” are trademark Lane work. Always good to see him added to a session.)

“Cryptic Means” shows off Groder and Greene by themselves, through some brisk, jazzy improvising. It’s a speedy track that still conveys a sense of patience, of letting the music carry its own weight. (I’m probably thinking that just because it’s a sparse track, having only two instruments and all.)

Very nice work, overall.  Groder surrounds himself with good company, and as on his previous CD, it pays off.

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