AMN Reviews: Whit Dickey Quartet – Root Perspectives (2022; TAO Forms)

There is more than a lot of free jazz that has emerged over the last several decades. Nonetheless, it is rare for a recording to juxtapose outside sax leads, classically oriented piano accompaniment, and a relentlessly busy rhythm section in a joyously abstract manner. On Root Perspectives, the latest effort from the Whit Dickey Quartet, drummer Dickey and company accomplish that and much more.

This particular lineup includes Tony Malaby on sax, Matthew Shipp on piano, and Brandon Lopez on bass, representing a switch-out of half of the members that released an album under the same moniker earlier this year. Providing four tracks spanning 50 minutes of dense improv, this grouping manages to stand out in a crowded field.

Malaby’s blowing is rough-edged, aggressive, and at times just plain in-your-face. His coarse texturalism and brief diversions into extended techniques are in sharp contrast to Shipp’s relatively structured playing. As a sideman, Shipp is able to fill space with notes in a subtle yet compelling fashion. Indeed, I often find that I enjoy Shipp’s rhythms and harmonies at least as much as his leads. On later tracks, Malaby leans more toward the lyrical and the overall tone of the recording heads – at times – ever so slightly toward traditional jazz even as Shipp’s complex lines keep the group squarely on the outside.

Lopez and Dickey both have the ability to draw from multiple genres and blend their influences in seamless patterns. Lopez alternatively plucks, bows, and slaps at his instrument. Dickey generates a non-stop and largely non-repetitive mass of beats and rattling, with a heavy emphasis on snare and cymbals.

Root Perspectives will be released on October 21 by TAO Forms. As they say, don’t let this one pass you by…

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