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Oregon based tenor saxophonist Rich Halley has been producing superior free-jazz music for many years and his group, the Rich Halley 4, shows the weight of that experience on their brand new release Crossing The Passes on Pine Eagle Records.

The Halley 4 is comprised of trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed, and drummer Carson Halley. Together they breathe as a unit, swinging hard through free-bop fanfares like the Ornette-ish "The Only Constant," which opens the album with a rollicking start/stop theme that rips into a viscous motion of Reed's walking bass. After a wild tenor solo, Reed and Halley adopt a different, almost primal agenda to accompany Vlatkovich, whose multiphonic-laced spot heads straight into mayhem before Halley's drums emerge -- loose-limbed and funky.

"Traversing the Maze," lurches along with a staggered gait while Halley unleashes a statement reminiscent of both Dewey Redman and Albert Ayler --laden with wild extremes into the upper register. Vlatkovich takes over, a cappella, reaching into the gutbucket with bluesy commentary that becomes more pointed when the rhythm sections joins in. Reed and Halley continue in a drum/bass dialog after the 'bone solo, reminding me a little of the dynamic shared by Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall in the epic trio Air.

There is a composer aesthetic going on -- even in the four group improvisations that grace this disc -- the sense of interplay seems grounded in a shared history. Crossing The Passes represents the finest possible honed-edge in post Ornette Coleman Quartet dynamics -- adventurous, musical and swinging.


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