Mahakala Music label head and sax player Chad Fowler (who plays on the exotic stritch and saxello) defined the session of the ad-hoc quartet with Japanese-American pianist Eri Yamamoto, double bass master William Parker and drummer Steve Hirsh as «Spontaneous folk music». And, indeed, you can sense the uplifting joy of playing simple melodies, live, again, with kindred soulmates. Accordingly, the double album «Sparks» was recorded in one take and documents the first-ever meeting of this quartet in the studio, post-Covid-19 lockdowns.
Yamamoto collaborated before extensively with Parker. Parker recorded before with Fowler, and Fowler worked before with Hirsh, but they needed no more than a brief introductory chat before improvising-composing five extended pieces on the spot. Fowler led these pieces with his instant, folk melodies and set the laid-back, groove-based atmosphere of the session, but the loose dynamics of the quartet left enough space for all to interpret individually and as a tight collective the melodic veins.
As it happens the contrasting forces within these spacious and melodic pieces make the music spark. Fowler anchors the music with accessible, soulful and almost sing-along melodies (he even injects a minor key version of «You Are My Sunshine» into «Taiko», written in memory of his grandmother) and infectious grooves, letting the music flow naturally in its own accord. In the first pieces, the title piece and «In The Garden», the rhythm section of Yamamoto, Parker and Hirsh expands Fowler’s melodic veins, but the music really soars when these three musicians challenge Fowler and opt for a fiery, intense mode of playing. It happens on Parker’s «Bob’s Pink Cadillac», a piece recorded before by Parker Clarinet Trio (Eremite, 2001), and briefly on the mournful «Taiko» and the last one «Real World». Then Yamamoto, Parker and Hirsh add more power and urgent energy to the loose dynamics and take Fowler out of his laid-back comfort zone into his most ‘out’ modes of playing.
Eri Yamamoto (p), Chad Fowler (stritch, saxello), William Parker (b), Steve Hirsh (dr)