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Ben Goldberg Quintet - The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The Fact

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Artist: Ben Goldberg Quintet

Album: The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The Fact

Label: Cryptogramophone

Review date: Apr. 13, 2006

What a cool album title – it moves from the ordinary to the transcendent, subverting both at either end of a well-executed aphorism. Like the best Cecil Taylor titles, it allows words to exist at the edges of their meanings, avoiding the trap of disassociation in favor of a vaguely Oriental metaphysicality. Something magical happens as the iambic phrases march from three to four, metamorphosing substance into idea and vice versa.

The music is just as rich; a tribute to clarinetist Steve Lacy, Goldberg’s mentor, it reflects the soul-liberating improvisational aspects of what Lacy accomplished in his long career. But The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The Fact also sums up his compositional achievements in moments of taut, sweet harmony. The two versions of “Facts,” dizzy with space and achingly cool with heartfelt vocals to match, suggest chamber music more than anything else. The same is certainly the case with the only Lacy composition here, the post-Webernian “blinks.” Violinist/vocalist Carla Kihlstedt is in an introspective mode here, her playing pointillistic and sharp.

Almost totally opposite is “Song and Dance,” kicked into gear by drummer Ches Smith. It conjures Lacy’s Dixieland-revivalist past, with Kihlstedt sounding particularly joyful here while presenting dissonances that never quite resolve, becoming tastier as they multiply. A cooler jaunt informs “MF,” where Goldberg’s punchy listlessness is heard in full effect before Smith and bassist Devin Hoff bring on the abstract funk; everything flops into something approaching chaos, but control is expertly maintained.

Rob Sudduth deserves special mention here; playing the role of house chameleon, his frequent vibrato vies with squank and atonal slither to rap up the disc’s multivalent aesthetic neatly in one fully charged voice.

By Marc Medwin

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