Cellist Daniel Levin is an improviser acutely aware of the inherent intangibility of music: you can’t touch it, but it can touch you. The pieces on his second hatOLOGY project accentuate the porous spaces between notes and much as they do those basic musical building blocks. As with his last effort, Some Trees, the instrumentation is chamber-tilted and somber in cast. Levin and trumpeter Nate Wooley approximate a frontline though Matt Moran’s roving vibes are foregrounded much of the time as well. Rhythm falls mainly to Joe Morris who makes the most the natural weight and resonance of his bass, plucking frequent vamps and playing in an economical style mostly removed from the more compressed approach sometimes favored on his frets. He makes each note count in terms of resonance and placement and while his lines aren’t as overtly daring as those of his partners, they end up just as integral to the music’s execution as the steady underlying thrum on “209 Willard Street” evinces. Wooley and Moran are both master colorists, the latter using the motor on his rig to generate obliquely pitched sustains that swirl and cascade around the higher sonorities of Wooley’s brass on “Cannery Row”.
Levin structures most of the pieces as lattices, pairing up players and interlocking component parts. The lush rendering of “Law Years” demonstrates the quartet’s strong contrapuntal leanings, bringing out fresh possibilities in Ornette’s wily blues theme. Levin and Wooley handle the horn parts and their abilities in the timbral department are tacitly striking, so much so that’s easy to in the control and depth exhibited by each. Conversely, Bird’s “Relaxin’ With Lee” is barely recognizable, slowed down and ventilated into spacious tone poem that wouldn’t be out of place on a Maneri record.
Oddly enough, there’s little dissonance folded into either the interplay or solos in the program. Wooley’s slurs and gurgles answered by Moran’s clouds of dizzying clusters on “Improvisation II” and the closing title piece offer two instances where instruments dip into discord, but even then the results are relatively reserved. It’s in this respect that the disc’s title becomes so apposite, harmonic edges deliquescing in a manner not sedate, but almost hypnotic. The anchoring vamp on “Untitled” carries audible kinship to William Parker’s “Song of Hope”. Morris diligently repeats the portentous pattern throughout and the others use it as a beacon to return to, Levin etching intersecting lines with unerringly pitched bow strokes. A half dozen spins of varying lengths and circumstances and I’m still pulling succulent meat from the bone on this one, the mark of a good album in my recipe book.
~ Derek Taylor