|"Find" is the second recording by Birth, a Cleveland-based trio whose music combines all sorts of disparate influences (jazz, drum-n-bass, metal, funk, progressive rock) into a surprisingly cogent and inspired whole. Superficially, Birth has a lot in common with Happy Apple, another youthful sax / drums / electric bass trio from the Midwest. Saxophonist Josh Smith is a highly expressive player whose deep jazz roots shine through, even when he's in the midst of an extreme, electronically-enhanced post-Ayler rant. Drummer Joe Tomino "like Happy Apple drummer David King" is a whirling dervish virtuoso who simply must be heard to be believed. Electric bassist Jeremy Bleich keeps a relatively low profile, though his ringing fretless sonorities give the band an immediately identifiable sound. On "Find", the trio is joined (on three tracks) by the well-regarded New York-based trumpeter Cuong Vu.
Composing credits are shared almost equally amongst the group, and each member distinguishes himself quite admirably in this regard. Smith prefers multi-sectioned pieces with vocalized, folk-like themes that veer off into all sorts of strange and unexpected areas. His tenor saxophone imbues the sing-song melody of "Smile" with injured earnestness, even after the underlying rhythm starts to stutter like a malfunctioning CD player. Smith's expressive, overtly jazzy solo provides interesting contrast to the Smith and Bleich's heavy metallic backing. Fleshed-out by Cuong Vu's trumpet, "The Round One" is an Ornette-ish adventure through a forest of odd accents, thickets of free improv, and lovely chirping melodies. "Because the Sky is Blue" starts off like a ballad, and inflates into a post-Ayler anthem which, after a brief pause, is followed by a seemingly unrelated vehicle for moog, bass and drums. Listening to these, I couldn't help but be reminded of those two wonderful LPs Tim Berne recorded for Columbia over a decade ago.
Tomino contributes two contrasting pieces. His CD-opening "Seek" uses a variety of improbable, acrobatic rhythmic modulations as a compositional motif. His other piece, "Unhtitled r_d" is a luxurious ballad in which Cuong Vu's trumpet plays a central role. Bleich's two pieces, as well as Smith's "Emitter", seem to draw upon the deep wellspring of Judaic music as a central point of inspiration. With their rambunctious tempos, odd time signatures, and minor-keyed themes, these pieces have a lot in common with what I've been hearing lately from groups like Hasidic New Wave and Pachora. Birth's spirited, hard-charging, quasi-metallic treatment of these pieces, however, is quite distinctive and works really well.
Birth's energetic, searching music brims with invention, wit, and genuine emotion; commodities all too rare in jazz today. By all means: find "Find?"