I last checked out the work of trained field biologist/saxophonist/composer Rich Halley with Requiem for a Pit Viper, a record that swung with “dense grooves and high-level blasts.”
Now here’s Back from Beyond, the next entry in the Rich Halley 4 catalogue.
Halley is joined by his son Carson (drums, percussion), Clyde Reed (bass) and Michael Vlatkovich (trombone, percussion, squeak toys).
This record picks up where Requiem left off, carrying similar energy and pursuing grooves while maintain an avant-garde edge that actually turns out to be quite elegant in the more spacious passages. Once again, it is the instinctive interplay that really helps Halley’s quartet sink its proverbial teeth into the material.
There’s a carefree spirit that saturates Back from Beyond, infusing every piece with what could best be described as an energetic use of space. Halley’s compositions are scorchers, each one of them, but their real resonance lies with the notes that lie beneath the melodies. His group makes use of what’s organic best of all, venturing outside the confines of the charts to find the spiritual centre of the music.
Of course, the architecture of Halley’s compositions lends itself to this approach. Tracks often commence with a heavy-set groove and profound melody, often repeating to burrow into consciousness. From that foundation, the deconstruction of the set-up is introduced and the players take turns having different conversations before returning to the fountain.
Take “Section Three,” for instance. Here, Reed lays out a funky bass line and the horns jump on top. The piece carries through the unison melody for a while before eliminating the beat and sailing off in a number of directions at once. Lawlessness seems to reign as Vlatkovich and Halley play off each other.
Then there’s “Broken Ground,” carrying a similar path but on different wavelength. The melodic core isn’t perceptible initially, but the groove builds underneath in subtle, almost fragmented ways while Vlatkovich solos above.
Throw in “Reorbiting,” a track written for Sun Ra, and you’ve got a diverse record that generally walks the same expansive path of musical discovery.
Once more, Halley leads a resonant and conversant group of musicians. They know and love the material, but, better still, they know and love one another.