AMN Reviews: Rodrigo Amado / Joe McPhee / Kent Kessler / Chris Corsano – A History of Nothing (2018; Trost Records)

We are a little late of this one, an album recorded in March of 2017 and released in May of this year. Nonetheless, A History of Nothing is worthy of attention, and not just for a lineup that is stellar on paper. Amado and McPhee share sax duties, while Kessler wrestles with the double bass and Corsano gives his drum kit a workout.  In short, this is a studio exercise in free improv that features three aggressive tracks sandwiched between two more deliberate and outside recordings.

Kessler explores the extent of his instrument, using both fingering and a bow. Rather than setting forth a rhythm or any sort of framework for the others to play off of, he wanders with purpose. Exploring motifs and textures, Kessler doesn’t so much work with Corsano as compliments him. Corsano, of course, brings his busy, snare-heavy and cymbal-laden attack into the mix, playing what might be regarded as drum solos if heard in isolation. Thus, the “rhythm” section (using that term lightly here) provides a schizophrenic unpredictability. Case in point, when the rapid-fire assault temporarily slows for atmospherics that kick off Theory of Mind II (For Joe).

Amado, one of Europe’s most innovative and thoughtful saxophonists, sticks with tenor on this effort. McPhee, an American who cut his teeth in the early 1970’s, plays soprano and pocket trumpet. It would not be accurate to refer to this combination as dueling horns – instead, the two combine competition and cooperation across free-jazz blowouts, as well as the less frenetic pieces. They get downright bluesy at times, though their preferred methodology focuses on Amado’s controlled angularity and McPhee’s more reckless approach. On the other hand, Wild Flowers features extended blowing techniques from McPhee that eventually builds into warbling and fractured mid-tempo offering with the help of the other three.

While they may represent different generations, A History of Nothing finds Amado and McPhee at their individual and collective peaks. A very strong release.