Alex Harding & Blutopia: The Calling
Alex Harding & Blutopia
The Calling (Jazzaway JARCD017)
Composed by Alex Harding.
Recorded: Brooklyn, August 17 or 18, 2005
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
The title (and lead) track on baritone saxophonist Alex Harding's The Calling is a moving—if unfortunately incomplete—prologue/introduction to some very fine music. The first of the tune's two parts is a rubato, minor-key dirge over a bowed pedal point in the bass, specifically reminiscent of John Coltrane's "Spiritual." Pianist Lucian Ban strums the piano strings and limns the modal harmonies, drummer Nasheet Waits provides portentous cymbal and tom-tom rolls, percussionist Andrew Daniels sets an independent course on congas, and Harding renders the sustained, rising-and-falling opening theme with guts and sensitivity, before setting a gritty ostinato that forms the basis of the tune's forceful, latin-tinged second half. The band leaps wastes no time in reaching a very high gain of intensity, again reminiscent of mid-period Coltrane, especially A Love Supreme. While the band's approach isn't distinctive, the strength and conviction with which they play is commendable.
Harding is one of the best young baritone saxophonists. His sound is huge, varied, and expressive; his manner spontaneous, his ideas—while certainly owing to Trane—are original enough to call his own. Overall, the music's biggest flaw is the premature and musically nonsensical fade that cuts off the band in mid-flight, leaving one with a definite sense of incompleteness. The abrupt ending sabotages (not fatally, but noticeably) an otherwise powerful performance.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey