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Sirone - Live

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Artist: Sirone

Album: Live

Label: Atavistic

Review date: Oct. 8, 2005

Some musicians make a habit of dabbling with instruments peripheral to their primary axe. Over the years William Parker has added a number of traditional African acquisitions to his arsenal, taking what some listeners consider valuable time away from his bass. Roy Campbell regularly doubles on a variety of flutes with subjective success. Bassist Sirone shows a similar fickle penchant on this archival Live date from 1981, and in so doing falls prey to some of the same problems. Joining him in the concert are alto saxophonist Claude Lawrence, an Ornette-influenced player underrepresented outside of scant session work for Silkheart and CIMP, and drum doyen Denis Charles who needs no preamble. They make for a solid team in a pinch, but the results ultimately suffer thanks to Sirone’s decision to clutter his personal palette with pigments other than his bass. The disc’s occasionally scratchy, vinyl-sourced sound and abrupt track edits (presumably present on the original album pressing) don’t help matters either.

“Flute Song” floats along for nearly 10 minutes, a string of twittering falsetto tones voiced on the titular implement and broken by snatches of audible breath. Charles’ toms enter in the final minutes bracketing the leader’s aerial action with an earthbound levity, but the invocational improvisation still ends up feeling decidedly lightweight. Sirone hefts his principal instrument on “Eye of the Wind” and initially it’s a welcome shift. Charles gets the piece moving with loping rhythm. Lawrence traces a simple theme statement only to drop out shortly after and leave the drummer to a series of lithely parceled beats. Sirone solos next and coaxes a juicy elastic bounce from his strings, fat slab-like strums hanging in the air between sharp precision stops. His note-pregnant improvisation consumes the remainder of the piece and roughly segues into the next, “The Journey,” reaching a point perilously close to overwrought.

For “When it’s Over,” Sirone sets his bass down again, this time in favor of trombone (an instrument that goes unmentioned on the tray card). He joins Lawrence for a layering of solemn unison lines atop Charles’ sparse and distant malleted time-keeping and short-fuse cymbal flares. His whinnying slides and furtive glides show promise, but pale in comparison to his more prodigious bass work. “Vision” winds the show up. Charles sculpts a fluid tribal beat once again coaxing a pulsing energy from his toms as preface for the others. Lawrence’s cursory investigations hew cautiously close to the theme, but Sirone’s big sound gives the piece some gratifying girth. Hitting a collective stride in the closing minutes the trio strikes some sizeable sparks, but both piece and program regrettably cease just as momentum and energy are on the rise. The extremely finite nature of Sirone’s catalog makes virtually any reinstated entry a valuable one. Even with that added value, this vintage album still feels like a bit of a letdown.

By Derek Taylor

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