Elegant Walk Records: EW002
Reviewed by Chris BaberEnrique Haneine: drums, cymbals, and udu drums; Anna Webber: tenor saxophone; Catherine Sikora: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Carlo de Rosa: acoustic bass.
Recorded 2nd March 2018 b7 Antony Ruotolo at the Power Station, New York.
The set opens with ‘ Once a thought’, in which a twin saxophone attack reminiscent of free-jazz recordings of the 1960s; a simple theme is articulated in more or less unison (with deliberate playing around of the timing and phrasing, so that each player is bouncing off the other). This then has a burbling tenor with occasional interjections by the second horn, until a version of the theme is restated in unison. This sets the tone for the set. The rhythms switch effortlessly between different metres, with Haneine often leading the way and de Rosa keeping close track and never losing the beat. The liner notes emphasise the way that his use of ‘innovative rhythms in odd meter contexts and driving intervallic yet lyrical melodies.’ This is not simply a matter of being steeped in jazz composition (Haneine is a pianist as well as a drummer) but also, perhaps a result of his heritage, being Lebanese-Mexican gives an interesting take on Latin and Middle Eastern sounds. While these are not explicit in the tunes (in that there is no single piece that one can identify these musical influences), there are rhythmic patterns that make sense once one knows this.Sometimes the music shifts into Latin territory, as with hints of bossa nova in ‘Hidden Mirrors’ (track 6) or calypso vibe in ‘The Seventh Layer’ (track 2), but mostly the rhythm finds its own way around each piece. Like a magician who encourages you to look one way while he engages in sleight-of-hand, the drummer encourages his band to create to themes that sound easy to digest while he is busily deconstructing the rhythms behind them. Then, of course, the band shift gear and the two sax attack resumes to great effect. The way that they battle, bicker and bolster each other on ‘Like a bronco’ (track 8) shows their talents and is one of the stand-out tracks here – particularly as the sax playing is equalled by a neat riff on the bass that moves in and out of centre of the playing. Throughout, the saxes engage in conversation; sometimes providing apposite quotes from other tunes, like ‘Don’t stop the carnival’ on ‘The Seventh Layer’, but doing so with subtlety and moving rapidly from the quote to its variation so as not to overload the tune with the baggage that might be brought with such outside influences. Indeed, the creativity of the two sax players is such that they have little need to rely on the clichés of other tunes.
Given that Haneine is the drummer who is leading this outfit, you could imagine that the ever-changing drum patterns come first, and the bass then seeks to find a rhythmic centre as the pieces develop. It is this, I think, emphasis on developing and sustaining riffs that catch the listener’s attention, that makes this such an accessible free-jazz album. It also disguises the complexity of Haneine’s playing.