The Fully Celebrated - "Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (excerpt)" (Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones)
Boston saxophonist and composer Jim Hobbs returns with a version of his ubiquitous Fully Celebrated ensemble. Now paired down to a trio, the group has more space to open up and stretch out on these fascinating new compositions, and they rise to the occasion.
There’s an almost puckish atmosphere to some of these heads, notably the swaggering “Reptoid Alliance.” It jangles and blurts as Hobbs, along with long-time collaborators Timo Shanko on bass and drummer Django Carranza, delve into what sounds like 1990s Ornette Coleman territory. About halfway through the tune, however, Hobbs’ saxophone begins to sound backward. It’s an almost subliminal sensation until it reverses itself again, repeating the process several times. Hobbs’ control over the alto is such that it could be some sort of technical trick, but a line in the group’s press page about its use of the latest “dub technology” gives credence to the idea of studio manipulation. The title track certainly references dub, especially in the heavy delay on Hobbs’ alto and the spacious groove laid down by Carranza, whose occasionally reverberant kick drum drives the point home.
Whatever effects are employed (and they vary throughout the disc), the playing is tight and the groove-based tracks boast creativity from all involved. Shanko’s brief solo on the title track slides around with the relaxed precision achieved by very few. Shanko and Carranza breathe as one, especially on the more straightforward rocker “Enemy of Both Sides,” where they provide solid support for Hobbs’ enthusiastic exhortations. Often, it’s as if Shanko is another percussionist, so perfectly are his timbres in tune with Carranza’s every cymbal and drum stroke.
The final track, the wistfully lovely “Dew of May,” brings into focus all that is successful about Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones. In its opening minutes, Hobbs’ flexible vibrato and warmly expressive phrasing is lent a cathedral atmosphere via some long luscious reverb, as Shanko and Carranza roll and sizzle below in free tempo. The tune’s eventual groove is elastic, tempo and timbre changing throughout this long study in drone. Hobbs’ engagement with what I’ll stereotype as “Eastern” ornaments is wholly his own – I’ve only heard Paul Dunmall attempt similar microtonal bursts. This trio has crafted a disc full of power and intrigue on every level.