Past and Present Energies
Now 62, Hasan Abdur-Razzaq takes some of his sax cues from Albert Ayler — directly from Albert Ayler. Abdur-Razzaq was a teenager in Cleveland as Ayler, then an Ohioan, was getting his start. Maybe that’s part of the rejuvenation referenced here — a way of bringing back the sounds of his youth, of telling the universe that while the bodies have moved on, the community they built continues.
Or, maybe the music just helps keep him young.
Rejuvenation Voyage is a spirited energy-jazz session in a sax/bass/drums format. I didn’t know Abdur-Razzaq’s background when I sat through my first listen, and his sound really did conjure up visions of those mid-60s days, when free jazz had been around but was developing a rawness, a bite, that was a product both of the political times and of the musicians trying to reach beyond their bebop and modal histories.
“The Search for Truth” is the most directly Ayler-like track in the way it swings, with Abdur-Razzaq bleating an energetic, clear melody. On other tracks, like “Exclamation Pointe,” his sax is an outpouring, a blur of motion that tells a story in raspy, buzzy tones.
The other element that got me thinking “60s” were the diversions into Eastern mysticism. “The Quest,” for all its brashness, has a soothing, healing sound, starting with lone bass and slowly adding a strong-toned sax sermon. “Return Voyage” is a sea of percussion, full of the rich clatter of wooden beads.
The band is more than just Abdur-Razzaq. On that Ayleresque track, “The Search for Truth,” it’s really drummer and fellow Ohioan Ryan Jewell who’s getting the “solo,” with clattery drumming and snare rolls that create a sense of counter-motion against the sax melody. Behind both of them, bassist Tom Abbs — the ringer from New York — slowly plays out a gummy, sinewy bassline. Jenna Barvitski adds some high-register swooping on violin. (She appears on a few tracks but is counted as a guest, hence the band’s “Trio” moniker.)
All four of them pour it on in “Warp Speed,” where Abdur-Razzaq’s part is actually the slow one. It’s a great little trip. I also enjoyed the 14-minute “Strings and Things Suite,” an exercise in off-kilter chamber music that includes some cello from Abdur-Razzaq. It’s just as active and chatty as the album’s other tracks, but with less of a blazing sting, with crazed sax replaced by raspy cello sawing and skittish bouncing-bow violin. And then, in the second half, a big blazing alto sax shows up and kicks everything around, with the help of some merciless drumming by Jewell.