Through much of jazz history, from New Orleans beginnings to free jazz, the music’s shifting character has been defined by relationships between formal structure and improvisation. In recent years that has changed, with some individual musicians embracing everything from completely composed to through-improvised forms. What distinguishes Josh Cole’s Kind Mind is not its place on the spectrum but the rough division into those extremes.
Kind Mind, both CD title and band name, is bassist/composer Cole’s trio with Karen Ng (alto saxophone, clarinet and synthesizer) and Michael Davidson (vibraphone, marimba and pedals). That attention to sonic variety extends to Cole’s sampler, field recordings and synthesizer. Of 11 tracks on a concise 38-minute CD, six are credited to Cole, five to the three trio members. Those credited to Cole emphasize overlapping melodic gestures spread among Cole, Ng and Davidson. The effect is both lyric and timeless, almost ambient, made by instrumental sounds as engaging as you might hear, all apparent in Cole’s opening The Subway with Ng largely reconfiguring melodic content. Next up, talking makes it worse, credited to all three musicians, is taut free improvisation, marked by Cole’s scratching pizzicato and the flow of passionate saxophone and abstract vibraphone. In two tracks, totalling just 6’30” Kind Mind has constructed two different musical worlds, with several more to come.
With some variations that pattern repeats, but with some looping and extensive field recordings enriching the experience, becoming increasingly hypnotic. The dilemma for the reviewer? I found I could listen to it forever.