Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Enrique Haneine's The Mind's Mural

It's been at least a couple of months since I've tackled any free jazz. It's interesting how jazz recordings seem to come in waves sometimes, one genre or another. I can think of a period, maybe a year ago or so, where I was inundated with free jazz releases. At first I felt challenged by this avalanche of chaos and doing my best--as I always say--to extract the structure from the cacophony. A funny thing happens when you dive into difficult music, however. It comes together. It makes sense. You don't shy from it. You might look around, as I often do, to see if anyone's nearby who's silently judging you. But my initial questions of who still listens to free jazz for enjoyment have been slowly replaced by the notion that every music has its place, and you just need to find the right mindset to explore that.

I mention this because I have this new CD from Enrique Heneine, a composer and multi-instrumentalist who was born in Mexico City but now plays in New York City. Haneine's new CD, The Mind's Mural, is free jazz by definition, but it is incredibly easy to digest--perhaps even to newbies. I couldn't put my finger on the reason until I read the liner notes. "[Through] the use of innovative rhythms in odd meter contexts and driving intervallic yet lyrical melodies, the free jazz conversation is achieved in a high caliber, sensitive linear setting." That hits the nail on the noggin, because Haneine's unusual compositions are framed in a percussive strategy that borrows from Latin and Middle East influences. (Haneine is also Lebanese.) Once those motifs are set, Haneine slowly builds the tension until he reaches those free jazz crescendos of noise, but the momentum is sure and helps to guide through the wilder ideas.

While Haneine plays the piano, he is also a thoughtful and curious drummer--he chooses drums, cymbals and an udu drum to push sax players Anna Webber and Catherine Sikora, along with bassist Carlo de Rosa, down this treacherous and exciting road. It's his drum work that stands out as the driving force since he's so fast and exact. It's quite simple--his drumming acts as the hand that's holding yours, while his sax players dance around and tempt you to stray off the main path. Drums and bass are forged together at points in a guttural conversation that whispers in your ear and tells you to keep moving forward.

In many ways, this free jazz is about vibration and resonance, which makes it intriguing on an almost subconscious level. Regardless of your feeling toward free jazz, you might find yourself surprised at Haneine's seductive instincts, that building of tension that echoes the faraway beating of drums somewhere deep in the Amazon jungle. I won't blame you if your cautious about free jazz, especially if you've been burned in the past, but this is such a mesmerizing entry point, one that will beckon you to come closer while it slowly unleashes the fury in a confident, measured way.

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