I am a keen follower of ‘Tiny Hearts’ and if you explore the tributaries flowing from that creative enterprise you will arrive at this album. ‘Cosmontology’ is an incarnation (minus Eamon Dilworth). Dave Jackson is the leader of this project and joining him are three of Australia’s finest improvising musicians. This is Jackson’s second album under the title of ‘Cosmontology’, the last being in 2012. I have not asked the meaning of the album title, but the related term Cosmology is the science of unravelling the beginnings of the universe. At the centre of that work is the Big Bang Theory. If we transcribe that theory into musical terms we begin to divine the ethos of this album. This music feels incredibly bold to me, at times raw but always full of life, promise and excitement. The sub atomic particles and vibrations that exist at the centre of the musical universe have coalesced here.
Jackson is an established alto saxophonist who like the other band members works in the Sydney area. His approach while guided by an innate sense of musicality is somehow bolder than many of his alto playing contemporaries. There is a confidence that radiates from his every phrase, a sense that he is forging ahead without the need to look over his shoulder. He carries the history of Jazz in the DNA of his sound, but is always forward-looking.
This sense momentum is evident from the first listening. The title track ‘Cosmontology’ begins with an almost meditative intro by Barry who plays Rhodes throughout the album. In the first few bars the chords shift subtly, teasing us with possibilities. This nicely sets the mood up for what comes next, an unerring journey into the heart of a compelling composition. Bass and drums follow and as they weave in and around the chords a visceral power is evident as the groove develops. When Jackson comes in there is no equivocation. An overwhelming clarity of purpose has everyone moving in unison.
Steve Barry is a gifted acoustic pianist and he is well recorded as such. To hear him on a Rhodes is a treat. On this album Barry often takes the measured approach, providing the necessary counter weight to the wilder explorations. This frees Jackson, Botting and Derricott to work in a freer space, it is the springboard they need. A steadying hand guiding the explorers as they surge forwards. In Barry’s playing there is the feeling that you are on ‘Voyager’; experiencing unimaginable colours as you cut through the silence of space.
Tom Botting’s bass work quickly took my attention here. I rate him as a bass player but I have seldom heard him recorded so well. He has found an album where he can really shine and he makes the best of the opportunity. His strong lines and immaculate sense of time serve to unleash Derricott who rains down shimmering flurries of beats as he moves and shapes the sound. His contributions add depth, colour and heart stopping excitement. As a unit they are immaculate.
Some people might not like the use of pedals with a horn, but they need to catch up. Improvised music has never stood still, often appropriating new sounds, striking out in new directions. The Scandinavian trumpeters fatten up their sound by electronic means as do American trumpeters like Cuong Vu. The history of Jazz is full of examples of changed and amplified sound. Without those experiments no Charlie Christian or Jimmy Smith. What is the difference between utilising extended technique acoustically and adding the use of pedals to delay or chorus? The only questions that should arise are; has this been done well, does the music have integrity? In this case I say a resounding yes.
Who: Dave Jackson (alto saxophone, electronics), Steve Barry (Rhodes), Tom Botting (acoustic bass), Paul Derricott (drums)
What: ‘Cosmontology Live’ – www.davejacksonmusic.com/