Cadence Magazine Oct Nov Dec 2015
Review: THREADS (Quintet) "10/09/11" (TRP-019) and Convergence Ensemble "Tangent" (TRP-020)
BY: Bernie Koenig
On Ken Aldcroft's THREADS (Quintet) 10/09/11 alto saxophonist Karen Ng shows great versatility by playing nice long melodic lines as well as serious hard continuous blowing. She has a nice light tone which both blends and contrasts with guitarist Ken Aldcroft. The notion of a thread, judging from the CD, is that there is some kind of continuity within each piece. We get melodic statements, improvisations, return to the statement and so on. So the thread turns up in different places. "Threads II" features some nice unison playing by Ng and Aldcroft with the rest of the group offering great support. Every once in a while Jonathan Adjemian's synth comes through nicely. "Threads III" is dominated by some nice mallet work on the tom toms, which later changes to brushes, by drummer Germaine Liu while bassist Josh Cole keeps things moving under the unison work of Aldcroft and Ng. "Threads I" is similar to "Threads III" in that there is some nice unison playing by Aldcroft, Ng and Adjemian while Cole and Liu keeping things moving. 10/09/11 has a nice mix of melody, free improvisation and interplay.
Tangent (For Eric Dolphy) by Ken Aldcroft's Convergence Ensemble is a bit different. I am a great fan of Dolphy—I got to see him with the famous Mingus quartet back in 1960—but I do not hear any Dolphy here. Of course, a tribute does not have to sound like the person that is being honoured, though some reference would be nice, to show how that person influenced the current players. But maybe that is where the title "Tangent" comes from. Dolphy may have been an inspiration to go off on these tangents. Instead, we get some nice free playing and interplay between the players. The unison sound of Karen Ng and trombonist Scott Thomson is really nice, especially on "Section III". Aldcroft's guitar is more fragmented than on 10/09/11, but it is appropriate to the Convergence Ensemble. "Section IV" is very slow and moody with some nice harmonic playing between Thomson and Ng coupled with nice solo work by Aldcroft and bassist Wes Neal. While "Section VI" has some interesting fragmented playing. These two recordings feature two interesting sets of performers with great interplay all around.