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Paul Flaherty / Daniel Carter / Randall Colbourne - A Flash in the Sky

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Artist: Paul Flaherty / Daniel Carter / Randall Colbourne

Album: A Flash in the Sky

Label: Glass Museum

Review date: Sep. 4, 2009

Recent recruits to the music of saxophonist Paul Flaherty probably recognize him best for the series of blasting cap collaborations he’s convened with Chris Corsano on labels like Ecstatic Yod and Family Vineyard. His hoary horns work best in the company of a combustive drummer, one willing to meet him with equal measures of aggression and poise. In actuality, Flaherty’s forays into the duo format go back decades prior to a partnership with Randall Colbourne. Working in comparative obscurity, the pair cut over a dozen records for their Zaabway imprint, hawking them at sporadic gigs along the Northeastern seaboard and elsewhere. The two haven’t cut a live record in years and that lapse alone makes A Flash in the Sky an overdue reunion, one complemented by the recent studio release Bridge Out! on Family Vineyard recorded a year earlier.

The other instant draw to the album is the presence of Daniel Carter, a near contemporary of Flaherty’s who made his own seismic contributions to free jazz through a lengthy New York residency in influential bands like Test and Other Dimensions in Music. Carter and Flaherty have locked horns before on record, on a somewhat uneven concert excerpt released on Zaabway back in ’97. This date is the better evidence of their rapport as it distills the interplay largely without distractions. Where it falters is in the fealty to free jazz formula. At the risk of mixing metaphors, it’s good fun as blow outs go, just not one breaking any new reeds.

Both men make a point to cycle through their modest horn holdings, Carter starting on trumpet in tandem with Flaherty’s tenor, the two shaping lines that are coarsely sonorous and dense in design. Colbourne creates a loose tumbling accompaniment, but repeatedly sounds a bit boxed in by the dominance of the horns. Lengthy sections occur where he falls back on steady frothing cymbal spray, undercut by tom tom and snare accents at the expense of polyrhythmic risk-taking and variety. Carter eventually trades up for alto and the three men break off and reconvene in an easy-to-sketch pattern of combinations, the energy rising and receding with regularity over the span of just under a half hour.

One of the most galvanizing stretches comes when Colbourne lays out completely, leaving the horns to spiral in a surprisingly restrained spate of sharply drawn melody. It’s at once gorgeous and counter-intuitive to the tack the two are usually expected to take. The second track is really just a continuation of the first, the three testing out a few false endings before finally calling it done to requisite applause and spoken affirmations of satisfaction. Taken in total, this set probably worked better as an ephemeral concert experience, echoing as it does the connotation of evanescence contained in its title. Limited to a silk-screened edition of 500, its transience is certainly assured in one sense.

By Derek Taylor

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