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Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano - The Beloved Music

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Artist: Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano

Album: The Beloved Music

Label: Family Vineyard

Review date: Mar. 3, 2006

Dog skulls and gothic gold script that looks to have been lifted from a heavy metal album offer telltale clues that this disc isn’t your average jazz date, or even free jazz date for that matter. Since their debut together on the Ecstatic Yod label back in ’01, saxophonist Paul Flaherty and drummer Chris Corsano have been stampeding stages across the Eastern and Southern states, trampling ear drums and cerebrums in proportionate measure, Lightning Bolt-style, but without the crutch of amplification. Diametrically different in name than that precursor but just as potent, The Beloved Music erases any intimations of niceties or civility by dropping three slabs of intransigent impov lacquered in fury and ecstasy.

In the liner photos Flaherty looks the part of a lean and wizened Kris Kringle with cotton candy beard and rounded cheeks. His inveterate approach on tenor and alto is shaped from a lineage stretching from Ayler to Brötzmann and myriad points between. He favors renal legato blasts that shave away tonal flesh. He digs mercilessly through the innards of his horns to gouge out successive altissimo squeals and knee-buckling honks. Easily half his comrade’s age, head clean-shaven, Corsano is pile driver, steam press and wheat thresher rolled into gangly human form atop the drum stool. Through his seemingly indestructible sticks the energy music connections between free jazz and post punk percussion find bridging purchase – it’s a galvanizing convergence and one that smacks resoundingly of the savant. And it helps that Corsano’s recorded so hot that the mics sound like they’re built into the metal and skin of his kit.

The disc’s tracks carry titles that suggest the application of wry afterthought rather than premeditated cunning. Balls out (but not the least bit half-cocked) blowing contrasts sharply with sudden interludes of contemplative melody-laced respite. In other words there’s an underlying sanity occasionally appended to all the glorious madness. “The Great Pine Tar Scandal” winks knowingly at baseball fans and wastes little breath or muscle in reaching teeth-rattling speed. Mid-piece, Corsano’s barreling sticks cease and it’s just Flaherty splattering the ceiling with a florid Rorschach of scalding breath and spittle. Abruptly the two turn tribal: a searing melodic line intersects with a clattering tide of malleted toms and crashing cymbals to preface a cathartic close.

Corsano annexes the opening of “A Lean and Tortured Heart” for an extended drum improvisation, moving from dolorous rubbed surfaces into a polyrhythmic tour de force that borrows vague gamelan and African patterns in building an ever-swelling wall of sound. It’s a feat he somehow manages to top in the raging percussive bonfire of the final piece. The equally furnace-hot entrance of Flaherty’s tenor cedes no ground and the pair once again lock in an apocalyptic grappling match that eventually pares down into another vibrato-scorched foray for solo horn.

David Keenan’s turgid and parody-prone liner prose comes off like a poor man’s Byron Coley in its attempts to draw a descriptive bead. Contemplating the majesty of this music, I fear my own words fall hopelessly short and into a similar trap. In the end, the sounds need nothing in the way of commentary and speak unequivocally on their own.

By Derek Taylor

Other Reviews of Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano

The Hated Music

Steel Sleet & Last Eyes

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Find out more about Family Vineyard

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