I wonder what Charles Ives would think about free jazz, not for the extreme release of energy but for those passages in which it sounds like everyone’s playing a different tune at once. There’s a certain goofiness that comes out in such bizarro wanderings that I think he might have found disingenuous. But especially during heavy blowing passages, I can’t help but think he’d be pretty charged by the effect. (Just as likely, he’d find the improvisational group dynamic undisciplined.)
This is what I found myself thinking about during the second full-length from 7k Oaks, a live recording featuring the unit of Alfred 23 Harth (tenor sax), Fabrizio Spera (percussion), Luca Venitucci (keyboards), and Massimo Pupillo (bass). Driving in the outer lane, the quartet swerves recklessly from energy playing to minimalist exploration, using occasional distorted bass and Sun Ra-inspired synth excursions to trip things out a bit. The standout track is “Labor Anti-Brouillard,” which builds into a longform trancy groove with Chick Corea-esque Rhodes twinkling, long and thrillingly unsteady trumpet notes, and grinding bass. Also great is the closer, “At Last I Am Free,” featuring a minimal opening sax solo, lyrical buildup falls into a ballad only sullied slightly by outré flourishes. The group does have quite a nice dynamic at times.