Created by committed improvisers, this CD is one that won’t frighten those who shy away from free music. While engagement is present, alienating pressure is omitted. Strength isn’t missing, but is so much part of the New York quartet’s DNA that it doesn’t need to be emphasized. Drummer Gerald Cleaver’s powerful and elastic beat and pianist Matthew Shipp’s spidery pecks or cultivated patterning are guiding factors here. Bassist Kevin Ray’s pinpointed plucks move the program forward without demanding attention, while Allen Lowe operates in chameleonic fashion, alternately mellow or biting on tenor saxophone and smooth or raucous on alto.
Often harmonized by Lowe and Shipp, buoyed with straight-ahead rhythms from the others, themes swirl, splatter and slide as on the title track where Shipp’s single-note comping moves between Basie and Monk. Similarly, Lowe channels Sonny Rollins’ intensity and Lee Konitz’s invention depending on his chosen horn. These bolts between staccato timbre fanning and affable tonal exposition are most obvious on the final track. At 28 minutes, almost double any other, One offers space for the rhythm section’s only solos plus distinct transitions. Spurred by a drum backbeat, the initial metronomic swing encompassing reed bites and glossolalia allows everyone to trade breaks later, and in the final sequence descends to a sophisticated march with slurring saxophone lines and keyboard bounces.
Play this CD for anyone and that person will probably confirm he or she is Cool With That.