“Splendid sonic journey” says Step Tempest of “General Semantics”.

The trio of Geof Bradfield (tenor and soprano saxophones), Ben Goldberg (clarinet and contra-alto clarinet), and Dana Hall (drums, percussion) first met in 2017 at The Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago, IL.  That chance encounter led to “General Semantics” (Delmark Records), recorded a year later.  All three musicians have years of experiences behind them as leaders, co-leaders, or group members (Bradfield and Hall have worked together over two decades)––one can tell from the music that recorded how comfortable they are with each other, willing to push and be pushed into many different musical areas.

What a splendid sonic journey this is.  Opening with the quiet rush of “Air” (Bradfield on tenor, Goldberg on contra alto, and Hall using brushes), the music dances forward delightfully as the two reed players carry on quite a conversation.  Composed by the late pianist Cecil Taylor and recorded in 1961 by Steve Lacy, the “swinging” track has a timeless feel. “Tioga Street Zenith” is a three-way conversation, a bit more frenzied yet Hall sticks with brushes as the reeds spar and parry.  “Last Important Heartbreak of the Year” may sound like the title of a Country ballad but is really a rollicking tune with New Orleans drumming goosing the reeds right along.  A bit later in the program, “Hit Flip Switch” (from Goldberg’s prolific pen) also is a delightful romp, hearkening back to the raucous music of Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds. Bradfield’s laughing soprano and Goldberg’s playful clarinet should tickle one’s fancy!

The soprano sax and clarinet combo returns to dance together yet again on Hermeto Pascoal’s happy “8 de Agosto“––again, the two reeds weave around each other as Hall kicks and sticks away with glee.  Bradfield’s tenor sax introduces the title song which soon drops into a funky beat, Goldberg’s contra alto clarinet producing the bass line. The tenor solo is built off that bass line while Hall keeps the tune close to the ground.  “Half The Fun” opens with a “deep” solo from Goldberg over quiet hand-held percussion.  Several minutes later, Hall drops into a modified “jungle” rhythm a la 1920’s Duke Ellington, Goldberg plays a slinky bass line, and Bradfield creates a sweet soprano sax melody.

The album comes to a close with “Under and Over” which has a “freer” feel as the tenor sax and drums open the piece in a fiery conversation.  After they stop, Hall drops into a slow, bluesy, beat, Goldberg’s clarinet gets the melody while Bradfield acts as the bass line. There’s a feel of Julius Hemphill’s “Hard Blues” in the sound of the music, in the way the sax and clarinet move together. The piece closes with a classically-inspired clarinet and tenor saxophone duet.

The trio of Geof Bradfield, Ben Goldberg, and Dana Hall reminds us that when like-minded musicians get together, magic can happen.  Magic does happen on “General Semantics“––this delightful and musical recording is well worth your attention!



Posted by Richard B. Kamins at 4:52 PM Labels: Ben Goldberg, Dana Hall, Delmark Records,

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