First, is the long overdue second LP from Heart of the Ghost, this time featuring D.C. trumpeter Dave Ballou joining them for a unique set at Rhizome, a home for improvisational and experimental music in Washington, D.C.
Liner notes from Ken Vandermark:
When I first listened to the new album by Heart of the Ghost, with Dave Ballou as a guest, I quickly thought of the Kerry James Marshall exhibition, Mastry, which was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago from April to September of 2016. In particular I considered certain ideas Marshall stated in a short introductory film that was shown at the entrance to the show, which are pertinent here:
“If you look at the historical narrative of art, we do have to contend with this idea of the quote-unquote Old Masters.”
The discrepancy between what I could do and what those pictures seemed to represent was vast. So I wanted to figure out how to close the gap between what I was doing and what they had done. And I felt that the only way I could really do that was to know what they knew.
And if we go back to why this idea of mastery is important, it’s precisely because if you want to get in the game you’ve got to play it at the level that the people who are playing it at the highest level are playing it at. And the only way you can do that, really, is to know what they know, be able to do what they do, and then figure out how to put all of those things together and synthesize them in such a way that you can project your ideal into the world so that it has an equal chance of assuming the preferred position as any of the other things that were already out there. That’s how you do it.”
My first encounter with Heart of the Ghost, which includes Jarrett Gilgore on alto, Luke Stewart on double bass, and Ian McColm on drums, was at a concert Luke organized on February 4th, 2018, called “The anti-Super Bowl,” and held at Rhizome in Washington D.C. The show included my group Marker among a number of other performers, we were out on tour in the States at the time. Luke, Jarrett and Ian did something remarkable that night, and every time I’ve been able to listen to them. Though they use materials innovated by Old Masters from the history of jazz and improvised music, they have been able to find a way to close the gap, synthesizing them in such a way that they project their own musical ideal into the world.
On this new recording, “Live at Rhizome,” they do something else remarkable- they’ve added a guest on trumpet, Dave Ballou, incorporating his playing into the mix without losing their DNA as a band. Often the most direct interplay happens on two parallel levels, between the horns and between the bass and drums. These dialogs will intersect at key moments, revealing the nature of the quartet that is taking place as a deeply focused and thorough listening partnership. The mastery here is not old, and it is rigorous. As improvisers and instrumentalists, each musician displays real character and voice that display a personal synthesis of history. As Kerry James Marshall says, “That’s how you do it.”
-Ken Vandermark, Chicago, May 10, 2020