1 April 2006
LARRY YOUNG - MOTHERSHIP
Mother Ship as a whole is fascinating – it moves with a heightened tension between moments of barely contained turbulence and more traditional tunes. It is never anything like a typical hard bop or organ trio date – Young’s touch was much too original for that – but neither is it entirely different from his work on more accessible albums like Unity. “Love Drops” is a Latin romp that comes down optimistically from the brooding heights of “Trip Merchant.” More successful is a track like “Visions,” which brings together all the extremes of Young’s musical consciousness in off-kilter relation. The theme itself shifts between a bluesy, long tone melody – riding over Gladden’s jumpy backbeat – and a near-chaotic, definitely un-unison descending figure for the horns. Throughout, Young pays particular attention to his volume pedal, sliding like a sine wave between the tune’s natural crescendos and quiet storms. The title track, which opens the album, gets it off to an exhilarating, heart-pounding start, both Morgans (no relation) crackling with quick wits, cagey tones, and loosely controlled, elastic tempo. Gladden’s work is both busy and particularly impressive here, taking everyone to the boiling point and then pulling back just before he gets in the way. On "Trip Merchant" Young is worlds away from The Sermon, or even his own work on certain Grant Green dates on Blue Note. Eddie Gladden carries a skittish rhythm single-handedly, emphasizing the beat on the hi hat, but sending it through an elastic set of snare and tom permutations. Lee Morgan is remarkable, unleashed from the restraints of bebop changes, forced to find new ways of resolving his unique, stutter-heavy melodic lines. The underrated Herbert Morgan follows on tenor, and runs his way through an impressive set of dynamic shifts, shuttling back and forth between simple melodic repetitions (around Young’s insistent tonal center) and longer, irregularly spaced phrases that fall in between Gladden’s explosions. But most impressive throughout the track is Young himself – it is clearly his musical vision from start to finish. Behind all of the solos he is ruminative, expressive, and thunderous all at once; eighth note patterns evolve into whole note clusters, droning pedal work alternates with pointillist keyboard explosions, and he and Gladden trade off rhythm-keeping duties with subtle fervor. Most of all, Young is remarkable for the way he is constantly searching for new tonal colors within the organ itself – finding complementary textures for each individual voice of the band, directing the whole with the economical command of the greatest bandleaders. It is a vibrant mix of sensitive understatement and searing experimentalism that lent such excitement to the early waves of jazz’ fusion and free movements of the time.