AMN Reviews: Whit Dickey – Tao Quartets: Peace Planet (2019; Aum Fidelity)

Peace Planet is the first half of Whit Dickey’s Tao Quartets, a 2CD release scheduled for July 5. This offering features Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, Rob Brown on alto sax, and Dickey on drums. These four are no strangers to one another, as they have appeared together in various combinations for the last quarter century.

Given this familiarity, it is no surprise that their overall sound is refined, even when they venture outside. All four often head along their own respective trajectories with lines that are not overtly dependent on what the others are playing. The overall effect is that removal of any one or even two musicians from this group would still result in an interesting trio or duet. Shipp explores runs and chords, forming his own melodies. Brown solos independently over these, while Parker provides significant contributions in his trademark understated fashion. Dickey moves seamlessly between free and more conventional jazz percussion, frequently combining both.

While Peace Planet has a groove of its own with even a walking bass line or two, it would be a mistake to categorize this effort as anything but loosely structured improvisation from musicians so experienced that they make it sound less experimental than it really is.  But a careful listen will reveal subtleties and nuances – there is a lot going on here.  And it is all good.

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