Sometimes creative or free jazz is a radical departure from its ostensible genre, and other times you can clearly hear the jazz within. Rogue Star, the fourth album from saxophonist Rent Romus’ Life’s Blood Ensemble, falls into the latter category. Joined by Timothy Orr on drums, Joshua Marshall on sax, Heikki “Mike” Kosikinen on e-trumpet and recorder, Mark Clifford on vibes, as well as Safa Shokrai and Max Judelson pairing up on bass, Romus leads this extended outfit through eight pieces that repeatedly cross the line between open improvisation and more directed composition.
The use of two bass players provides an orchestral feel, over which Romus, Marshall, and Kosikinen layer jagged melodies. In fact, these three are as likely to head in different directions are they are to “play together” in the traditional sense. Clifford’s vibes and Romus’ occasional flute add to the jazzy feel, but in anything but a conventional fashion. To that point, even when the ensemble sets forth a few bluesy melodies, these are rounded out by a polite discordance.
At its best moments, Rogue Star offers a chaotic rhythmic structure and focused wailing that is grounded with a few cool vibe flourishes. This is an album on which all seven musicians are given their chances to shine both individually and as a group. A rewarding and compelling release.