Thursday, October 04, 2012

Fast Citizens' Fascinating "Gather"

Fast Citizens is a Chicago based cutting edge sextet originally under the nominal leadership of Keefe Jackson that has a rotating leadership. For its third album Gather (Delmark), it is under the nominal leadership of Fred Lonberg-Holm who plays cello, tenor guitar and cornet and contributed 5 of the 7 compositions for the groups latest recording. Other members of Fast Citizens include Jackson on tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and reed trumpet; Aram Shelton on alto saxophone, clarinet and cornet; Josh Berman on cornet; Anton Hatwich on bass and trumpet; and Frank Rosaly on drums and pocket trumpet.

The opening Infra-Pass is a bouncy original with an Ornette Coleman flavored riff and some fine bass clarinet from Jackson, fiery alto saxophone from Shelton, the leader’s gut-bucket fiddling on the cello and an interlude of dialogue between the alto and bass clarinet before the ensemble picks up the tempo riding this performance out. Its a fascinating mix of shifting musical flavors and some tempo shifts. The mood shifts with some alley saw cello against cornet opening Shelton’s It’s a Tough Grid, before the leader’s firm bass solo followed by Jackson’s tenor supported by the rhythm as the other horns repeat a riff that segues to Shelton’s acerbic alto. The leader’s guitar opens up Later News, with a simple rock groove that underpins Jackson’s hard-edged tenor sax solo and Shelton’s somewhat coarse and almost frenetic alto. 

Lazy Day with its moody chords and mix of musical colors from the cello, cornet and clarinet followed by Shelton’s strong clarinet is an evocative performance followed by the emphatic, rock-like rhythms of Faster Citizens! Kill! Kill! This latter number (whose title is a take off a Russ Meyer film title) includes a segment where Berman’s cornet engaging Shelton’s clarinet in a fiery unaccompanied dialogue. On Simpler Days, there are excellent solos from Jackson on bass clarinet, Berman on cornet and Shelton on alto sax, with the leader’s prickly guitar providing an interesting backdrop. 

I have not heard the earlier recordings by Fast Citizens, but the mix of composition, improvised playing and empathetic ensemble playing on Gather rewards careful listening. It left a very favorable impression on this writer.

I was provided a review copy from Delmark Records. Here is a video clip of Fast Citizens, at the time under Aram Shelton's nominal leadership

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