AMN Reviews: Craig Pedersen Quintet – Approaching the Absence of Doing (2017; Mystery & Wonder)

Trumpeter Craig Pedersen is back with a follow-up release to 2015’s Ghosts EP, this time adding a second drummer to his quartet featured on that recording. Thus, joining Pedersen for this go-around are Linsey Wellman on sax, Joel Kerr on bass, and Eric Thibodeau on drums, with drummer Bennett Bedoukian being the new contributor.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Approaching the Absence of Doing is Pedersen’s use of space. The opening piece, Intervention, is pulsing and heady with a simple theme accentuated by cymbal work. Likewise, the closer, Approaching, is based on a similar structure. But on much of the rest of the album, the group attempts to fill the space with free-jazz urgency. By the third track, aptly titled Blowing, Pedersen and company are employing extended techniques and a gritty dual horn attack. On F-ery, they go in an even more aggressive direction, with Pedersen providing rapid-fire themes over which Wellman solos. Throughout, Thibodeau and Bedoukian lay down a shifting and unpredictable base in which rhythm is merely one component of many. To the extent that any true rhythm exists, it is usually held up by Kerr – this is clearly apparent on Part 2, in which a prominent bass line provides jumping off points through which the others explore.

Clocking in at only 28 minutes, the album is perhaps best thought of as an extended EP, as it is 10 minutes longer than Ghosts. Influences? I still hear a lot of Ayler, but Pedersen seems to take in the free jazz of the 1960s as a whole and spit out a modernized version thereof with his own unique twists and character. Highly recommended.