Paul Flaherty has a long-standing penchant for pairing prosperously with powerhouse drummers. His past partners have included percussion dynamos Randall Colbourne and Chris Corsano. But the recorded results are sometimes hard to come by given their limited circulation on tiny independent labels like Zaabway and Ecstatic Yod. Marc Edwards fits well as a member of that strongman fraternity, his sticks having supplied rippling rhythmic muscle for both Cecil Taylor and David S. Ware. His own albums at the helm have been few in number but notable, particularly a CIMP date with Sabir Mateen and Hill Greene, which thanks to the early bass-stifling acoustics of the Spirit Room, was more duo than trio. Flaherty’s go-for-broke philosophy on horns demands this sort of assertive, sedulous support. A shrinking violet behind the kit would all but certainly buckle and flatten under the saxophonist’s blitz.
In this respect and others Flaherty is like an American equivalent to Brötzmann, a comparison no doubt conjectured before. Both men hold no compunction when it comes to blowing their respective stacks. Their horns are means to an end, not habiliments handled with care and diplomacy. But each tempers his shouts and bellows with bouts of melancholy and even melody, albeit the latter often wrung through the wringer. Like his German counterpart, Flaherty loves to burrow and root in the bowels of his instruments, especially tenor, unearthing wide-girthed atonal slabs that explode like pockets of natural gas ignited by a steam shovel spark. Texture and timbre also play crucial parts There’s plenty of room for him to engage in such excavations on this set, the first of two volumes documenting a confab with Edwards in, of all places, a Pubic Television Station studio (the natural addendum question being: was it aired?).
Improvisation nourishes all six tracks. “Dark Desert” gathers velocity like a sand-blasting sirocco, Edwards’ sticks whipping dervish rhythms across skin and cymbal surfaces. Flaherty’s tenor unleashes a stream of scalding multiphonics, eventually tapering into a gnarled point that etches at the edges of melody. Simmer to boil marks the strategy on “Small Doorway” where Edwards manages to generate a whirlpool force on nothing but brushes and kick drum. Flaherty chews through another reed, this time affixed in alto mouthpiece, blowing a surge of overtones that sound almost like Dunmallian bagpipe sonorities. Again the Brötzmann parallel is powerful and conspicuous as the pair traffic in emotion-on-sleeve sincerity. “Amrita” scales back the momentum significantly. Edwards crafts a sparse clip-clop cadence and the track’s brief five-and-half minutes amble by as feature for Flaherty’s more measured and lyrical side.
“Janagama” benefits from more Flaherty firepower, but falters under Edwards’ numbingly static beat. “Mahabharasta” detonates as the filibuster closer. Edwards erects a tumult-filled backdrop while Flaherty digs in, long blustering breaths singeing the curved corridors of his horn. By the time the disc slides to a stop it’s a wonder there’s any lacquer left unblackened by the furnace-hot onslaught. This is just one of several recent discs with Flaherty in the front line. Others include a date with Corsano and saxophonist Steve Baczkowski on Wet Paint, and an outing by the possibly one-off Jumala Quintet where Flaherty crosses horns with Joe McPhee. As exciting as all the activity is, it also heightens yearning for another match-up that might be even more momentous. A teaming with Brötzmann seems long overdue.
~ Derek Taylor