FMRJE's latest offering/compact disk, "Polysonic Spirit" is the continuum of FMRJE's legacy, in the Ensemble's improvisational sensibilities despite the personnel changes in FMRJE; improvisation is always at the core of FMRJE.
This cd captures FMRJE in concert with a new line up. Featuring soprano saxophonist Joe Giradullo; multi instrumentalist Hilary Noble on flute, congas, tenor and soprano saxophones; electric violinist Jonathan LaMaster, electric guitarist Chris Florio, bassist Albey Balgochian, conguero Jose Arroyo and drummer band leader Dennis Warren. The voicings of electric violinist Jonathan and multi-instrumentalist Hilary moves the music to an extra dimension where the performance can be seen as a context for the reenactment of the Spirits embodied in each instruments and instrumentalists. What we also find in this performance, is the general feeling that each FMRJE's performance is an attempt to recapture-through the sound medium- the Pre-Babel state/spirit, which is the unifying element underlying all languages known to human beings.
When the band reaches their climax during a performance, this intrinsic binding force-or unifying element-seems to be within the grasp of the performers who by then are inhabited by the Spirits. These known and unknown Spirits like
Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Steve Lacy, Clifford Thornton, Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Sharrock, the Orichas Esu (guardian of the crossroads), Shango(Deity of thunder and lightning),Ogun(Deity of war and iron), Obatala(one who shapes human forms), becomes accessible to the attentive and perceptive listeners who seek to transcend the self-conscious selfhood from becoming the principal appetite for the soul. What follows is the opening of gates revealing a new world-at the intersection of Science and Spirituality.
The music created by this new FMRJE is a departure from the other distinguished FMRJE ensemble which focused on producing Great Black Music (from the Ancient to the Future). Today, FMRJE is making music at the union of
Throughout the cd, there is always a general feeling that a super natural phenomenon will be experienced by the listeners. The opening piece, Polysonic Trio features a trio interplay between the tellurian force of Albey's bass and Dennis's poly rhythmic innovations, with soprano saxophonist Giardullo assiduously and methodically breaking the sound barrier.
The second piece, Polysonic Septet has a nautical feel. The impressive interaction between the uninterrupted tidal waves of cymbals and linear conga rhythmics swells into tidal waves of music that supports all soloist. The tidal force is perceptible when one focuses on the voicing/vibrations of Chris's guitar, Jonathan's violin and Albey's bass. The solos of Hilary's tenor and Joe's soprano saxophones capture the human spirit for survival and resilience. Hilary's beautiful flute solo is reminiscent of the hope carried by the dove of Noah's Ark, when the bird of peace returned with an olive leaf branch in her mouth after the Deluge. Transitions to the final interplay, with Joe's soprano and the band descending into an impressionistic tonal painting of a Rainbow after the cataclysm.
As for the last piece Polysonic Sextet, the same sensation of a journey prevails. Only at this time, we as the listener are somewhere transfixed in a spacetime continuum. The opening segment presents a tranquil and beautiful interplay between Noble's flute and LaMaster's violin capturing the ancient magic of a lunar eclipse. The song moves with the subtle interplay of otherworldly electric violin, ethereal guitar and inventive bassman's sonics, while orchestrating into a sensation of evocation of (orbital) motion and (gravitational and electromagnetic) attraction. It is against this cosmic background, that both reeds solo at the speeds of the light (tenor) and sound (soprano). Equally absorbing is the moment when the sonic meshing of the hypnotic violin and incantational guitar creates an electric symphony with enough magic, to engage Shango (Deity of light) and the Spirits of Robert Johnson, Sun Ra, and others to improvised into a dance. D.Y. Ngoy
Somewhere in the world, it's still 1969, and jazz musicians are creating protracted improvisations that reference the unknowns of outer space and the percussive tradition of ancient civilizations. For two days in late 2001 and early 2002, 1960 was located in a club in Somerville, Mass., where the Boston-based Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble (FMRJE) recorded this disc.
First constituted under the leadership of drummer Dennis Warren in the late 1980s, the FMRJE has grown and shifted personnel over the years with such outstanding players as saxophonist Glenn Spearman, trumpeter/composer Raphe Malik and guitarist Tor Snyder in the fold. In concept and performance, the FMRJE's closest antecedent would seem to be Sun Ra's multi-faceted Arkestra, and similarly, over the years, it has released self-produced sessions. Yet, the three long jams that make up this disc also recalls times in the 1960s when percussion-heavy aggregations led by the likes of Gary Bartz, Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders would appear in concert and perform seemingly endless vamps of molten, intoxicating sound.
Warren, who studied with Black music theorists like trumpeter Bill Dixon and drummer Milford Graves, was around to experience the tail end of that Free Jazz psychedelic epoch. The FMRJE draws on those ideas to produce a gyrating, hypnotic sound, which as he says "demonstrates our ancient roots and our future communications, swirling through our biochemical spheres and igniting our souls for the hope of love in humanity."
These sentiments aside, the most remarkable circumstance about the FMRJE on this, its first release in four years, is how few members it has. Besides Warren on drums and timbales, the massive, surging output is created by only four other musicians: Jose M. Arroyo on congas and percussion; Chris Florio on guitar and electronics; Albey Balgochian on electrified stand-up bass; and the over-the-top saxophone lines of Andy Voelker.
Balgochian, who has also played in drummer Jackson Krall's Secret Music Society and is a veteran R&B, blues and reggae performer, has been with the band since 1997. The idea of every one of the tunes here, is for him and Arroyo, who has been a Full Metaler for about two years, to combine with Warren to create a resolute pulse over which Voelker's harsh, overblown notes explode and Florio's flailing, repetitive adornments soar. Although there are brief solos, no one member ever creates in isolation. So, for instance, if the guitarist explores some high-pitched, neo-acid-jazz fingering, he's shadowed by the bassist's constant rolling motion and Warren exercising all parts of his kit.
Voice samples from Martin Luther King Jr., a choir, and someone who sounds suspiciously like LSD guru Timothy Leary, appear on a couple of tracks among the electronic wiggles, guitar freak-outs and dense rhythms, giving the session even more of a 1960s feel. Also, with what band members describe as a total commitment to the maximum possibility of sound, there's very little breathing room here. It's sort of taking both "Ascension" and "A Love Supreme" on step further at the same time. At times, in fact, you begin to feel as if you're hearing one of those legendary all-night blowouts in which half Energy jazz/half heavy metal pioneers like guitarist Sonny Sharrock, an avowed FMRJE icon, participated.
With one of the tunes almost hitting the 34 minute mark and the other two not that much shorter, this disc, which is only available from www.drimala.com will no doubt appeal to those who miss the 1960s and music that was experienced as a communal, quasi-religious, cleansing experience. There's no doubting the sincerity of Warren and the FMRJEers. However whether such naïve art can co-exist in the cynical 21st century is another question. Decide for yourself.
Issue #57 Dick Metcalf
Issue #57 Dick Metcalf
Our friends at Drimala are definitely "upping the ante" with some of the albums they've been releasing lately (ed: of course, we knew they'd gone over some serious edge when they signed us). FMRJE is 21st century fusion before it's time... this is what they'll be listening to in the 22nd, no doubt! There are only 3 cuts, but 2 of them are over 25 minutes long... they call their tracks "events", & you'll understand that immediately upon listening (in th' old days, we called 'em jams, methinks). This goes much further/deeper than just a jam session, however... think Mahavishnu, then perhaps Weather Report, maybe even Sharrock; or any other group with opera length jazz fusion laced with heavy percussion.
On first listen, you'll want to reserve the full 74 minutes with no interruptions to the flow. Tension/release & build/ebb are a natural part of this kind of music, & you won't want to miss any of the excitement they generate. They did an amazing job with the mix, you can hear each & every nuance, without any stepping on each other. I'm highly impressed... this is one of those classic albums that will stay in the collection for eons! Just GREAT jazz, with unbounded energies... gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us!
Issue #57 Dick Metcalf
Joe McPhee´s "Nation Time" (1970), recently recovered by Unheard Music Series reissue project, lead the way. McPhee, himself, didn´t follow it, but there were other musicians who, sooner or latter, would step into it. Dennis Warren is one of those musicians. He plays a kind of funk/rhythm & blues/jazz that balances intense groove and creative freedom, making interesting use of electronic and latin percussion, two worlds that go along very seldom.
There are a few weak points in this recording (some cliches, easy solutions, misunderstandings by guitarist Chris Florio), but the sheer energy of the compositions (we must pay attention to alto saxophone player Andy Voelker) and the strong rhythmic pulse (percussionist Jose Arroyo shares merits with Warren and bass player Albey Balgochian) grab the listener´s attention almost immediately. The name of this band takes us to the years of all revolutions (the 60s and 70s), when this kind of music was politically committed, agitating and intervening. What we are still to find here is whether it represents a memory of old times or a new "hard rain is gonna fall". We are sure much in need of that.
Rui Eduardo Paes
Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble
Horizon Event (Drimala)
review by Scott Hreha
Drummer Dennis Warren has been a steady presence on the Boston jazz scene for several years now, providing the lifepulse for his own Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble and innumerable other projects. For his first FMRJE recordings in over four years, Warren premieres a new version of his long-standing unit that includes a host of new faces to the improvised music world. While longtime fans of the FMRJE might be tempted to lament the absence of heavy-hitters like trumpeter Raphé Malik and guitarist Tor Snyder, the recorded debut of this new band shows a reinvigorated Warren leading his young troops into the improvised jungles for which they've always been renowned.
More than ever before, the FMRJE has incorporated the free-funk ideologies of Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman's working bands of the 1970s. However, the virtual percussion troupe formed by the confluence of Warren and Jose Arroyo keeps the group far less rhythmically confined than even Agharta / Pangaea era Miles. Electric bassist Albey Balgochian has a proclivity for keeping the bottom end a little too busy, but he aligns himself well enough with Warren's rapid-fire drumming to fuel the band upward and outward. Similarly, saxophonist Andy Voelker may not be a player on par with past FMRJE-ers Malik or Marco Eneidi, but he fills the horn chair with youthful vigor and passionate sensitivity. But it's guitarist Chris Florio that appears to be the glue that holds everything together over the course of these three live recordings - be it the Harmolodic riff that submerges and resurfaces throughout "Event 120401A," the spacious, jazzy chords that offer airy counterpoint to the rest of the group's frenzied blowing at the beginning of "Event 120401B," or the searing display of zealous geometry that kicks "Event 012202" into final gear. As an ensemble though, this version of the FMRJE functions as collectively as any of its predecessors - instead of a succession of windy solos, the music morphs together to form layers of intrigue for the duration of these lengthy improvisations.
Even if at certain points of this disc Warren and company come off as not being able to choose between freedom and groove, there's no reason they should have to. While they may have moved on from the more strict jazz trappings of their earlier work, the FMRJE is extending the tradition of some of the most exciting, genre-bending bands in the music's history.
Event 120401A / Event 120401B / Event 012202.
Dennis Warren (drums, timbales) / Jose M. Arroyo (congas, percussion) / Andy Voelker (alto sax) / Albey Balgochian (bass) / Chris Florio (guitar, electronics).
Skybar, Somerville MA, 4 December 2001 & 22 January 2002.
Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble
Personnel: Dennis Warren &endash; Drums Timbales; Jose M. Arroyo &endash;Congas, Percussion; Andy Voelker &endash; Alto Saxophone; Albey Balgochian &endash; Bass; Chris Florio &endash; Guitar, Electronics.
by Marc Corroto
Jump in to the flow of Dennis Warren's music any place you desire. His music, the music of the Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble (FMRJE) is a continuously flowing river of sound with (seemingly) no starting or ending points.
The drummer Dennis Warren is a disciple of Milford Graves and has studied with Cecil Taylor. His FMRJE, begun in 1989 has included jazz luminaries Raphe Malik, and Glenn Spearman. The current lineup like all others features an additional percussionist with conga player Jose Arroyo. The rhythm concentrated music is constantly propelling forward. Driving the powerful engine of Warren's drumming. This is the music born out of the electric Miles Filmore and Agharta years, is the original jamband concept.
Warren's prior self-produced FMRJE recordings can be found at his website and his previous label release was Watch Out! for Accurate Records.
Horizon Event is an accurate representation of what the FMRJE music is all about. The quintet sounds more like a large ensemble here filling space with powerful stroke throughout. Alto saxophonist Andy Voelker provides the out-spark throughout with engagingly spirited play.
by Dan Warburton
Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble
What in the early 1980s used to be called "punk funk" (the first few James Blood Ulmer albums, the early offerings of Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society..) never quite lived up to its potential - the plasticity of free jazz always had a hard time adapting to funk's metrical precision. While Blood and Shannon have ended up spending more time with the latter, drummer Dennis Warren has preferred a more eclectic approach.
The current line-up of his FMRJE features Andy Voelker on alto sax and Chris Florio on guitar and electronics, along with old FMRJE hands Abbey Balgochian (since 1997) on bass and Jose Arroyo on congas and percussion, and "Horizon Event" documents their appearance at Skybar in Somerville MA in December 2001 and January 2002 (FMRJE enthusiasts may like to know several jams are available for downloading at fmrje.com).
Live recordings are, as we all know, often more exciting than studio dates (the highs here are genuinely thrilling), but also run the risk of getting bogged down, even lost. With Dennis Warren behind the kit the band can usually steer itself out of tight spots with breathtaking results, but things are not always totally convincing: Florio's synth doodlings and Martin Luther King samples (no prizes for guessing from which speech) near the end of "Event 120401A" sound a bit tired until Warren and Arroyo return to the attack and manage to conclude proceedings with conviction. In Arroyo, Warren has a percussion partner who's quite happy to lay down straight African rhythms, leaving
Dennis free to explore the outer reaches of his rhythmic universe. If rhythmic regularity appears, it's welcomed into the music, worked with and then discarded when no longer necessary (case in point, the opening killer groove of "Event 120401A" which self-destructs after barely a minute, and also "Event 120401B" after about six minutes). Andy Voelker's alto playing, though never quite as incendiary as that of his FMRJE predecessor Glenn Spearman (could it ever be?) reveals a wide knowledge of the instrument and its practitioners, though even he gets a bit stuck towards the end of the second track.
What we're left with is a fascinating sonic space full of contrasting gravitational forces (the black hole cover photograph is quite appropriate) - pulses, hooks, motives all pull the music this way and that. It's quite a hike, and even if the view along the trail is often obscured by trees and clouds, the panorama from the mountaintop is well worth the effort.
7 in One
Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble
By Mark Corroto
Let me take you out there to a
place where energy meets sound. Where the electric Miles
treads. Where freedom means a discipline to music, like a
Sun Ra meltdown. Where the groove has no titles and John
Coltrane can play a solo for two hours and you remain
riveted in your seat. Dennis Warren lives here. His Full
Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble walks the land where
Ornette Coleman' electric Prime Time and Ronald Shannon
Jackson's band walked. His latest self-released recording is
a nine track sampling of that energy with their longest
track clocking in at just short of eleven minutes. It's a
pity, this release should have been nine discs of extended
jams. Each track aches to be stretched out and grooved upon.
Guess you will just have to catch FMRJE live.
7 in One
By John Barrett, Jr.
When I hear this I don't think of metal - this is sand, moving fast and always receptive to the winds of change. The rhythm keeps popping, slurring guitars over gathering drums. "Jazz Iron" takes the pulse and goes hot: Raphe Malik reaching high in spiraling notes. The left guitar starts a wah-wah, and his partner builds the thought: Hendrix one moment, Clapton the next. Malik returns softer, and here he blends; one more flavor in a thick tangy stew. It goes its own way, and yet you feel structure.
"Metal Petals" starts in Chico Hamiltion country: Earl Lawrence's flute, twisting exotic over the mist of cymbals. Some wah-wah splashes through, a spot of marimba, and Malik cries in the distance. The warmth of the jungle - and then it goes wild. Nature has wakened and Lawrence takes wing, a bird above the dense foliage. "First Hit" has the turbulence of "Iron," with Malik creeping softly. The power is Warren's drumming, and slippery twangs that dot the air. Lawrence moves slowly with calm in the midst of hysteria. Not as strong as "Iron," but nice, and I can't forget the flute!
It's a lighter sound on "Rhumba X:" Lawrence dancing smooth over big drums. It goes kinetic, without the density of before; a clearer taste that I enjoy. Malik's turn is good and ferocious. "Mercury" is a more aggressive "Iron;" here Lawrence shouts (with sweetness intact), and I love it. Malik is a foghorn, and the harsh strings really bring energy. Nice.
"Ogun's Flight" takes the prize;
after a breakdown (and some delightful studio chatter) the
rhythm bears down and Lawrence winds his sensual dance. No
guitar heroes here; and Malik is a supplemental bass, adding
a hum to the background. Everything in service to the mood,
and this is PERFECT. A Santana feel starts to emerge, and
the conga steps forward. Sweet rumbles develop, the cymbals
shower, and Martin Gil gets his lone earthly solo. Then it
ends; oddly abrupt, but we have crossed the world in ten
minutes. It's been a trip: some bits sound alike but the
horns are great and the interplay fun. It's a colorful dance
- and how it moves!
The journal of improvised & experimental music
The FMRJE celebrates it's tenth
anniversary and sallies forth on another commando mission to
bring electrified free jazz to the people. Trumpeter Raphe
Malik blasts the fanfare and leads the way, flanked by Earl
Grant Lawrence's soaring flute and the double guitar assault
of Mike Sealy and Tor Yochai Snyder, while their
indefatigable unit chief drummer Dennis Warren propels the
unit from the engine room. If you love the smell of napalm
in the morning, you'll savor the stinging mists that settle
and shroud around the tribalistic tic tic rising from the
jungle floor. Translation: Martin Gil's percussion adds to
the music's organic flavor in spite of the two guitarists'
effects-drenched metal-bending. It's worth noting that this
is the first time a sax-less FMRJE has been recorded,
opening things up a bit for the other solists and allowing
some less dominating colors to creep through. The unit's
newest member, electric basses Alby Balgochian, lays down a
fluid and sometimes quite rhythmic bottom end (as on the
uncharacteristically languid "Metal Petals") which
could serve as an easy point of access for the uninitiated.
But to these ears, the ballistic, if somewhat homogenous,
moments of rapid-fire trumpet and dense drum-punishing are
the most rewarding. Allow yourself to be swept into the
vortex and judge for yourself.
April 21, 1999
Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble,
7 in One (self-released, CD)
Sometimes a group's name says it all. With Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble that is certainly the case. Colchester resident and percussionist Martin Gil says they play "collectively improvised art music" - part of a tradition that began over 30 years ago spearheaded by Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Bill Dixon, Archie Shepp, John Coltrane's Ascension recording, and Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz sessions, among others.
If you already have an affinity for any of these artists, you may find the FMRJE of more than a passing interests; if not, be forewarned: This is not music for the faint of heart. The four core members of the ensemble- drummer/leader Warren, percussionist Gil, trumpeter Raphe Malik and electric guitarist Tor Yochai Snyder - have played together for 10 years. Previous incarnations of the band released five cassettes and three CDs, all self-produced with the exception of 1996 Watch Out! CD on the Accurate label.
7 in One features a very different sonic palette than its predecessors, with the excoriating ululation's of the saxophonists replaced by the burnished flute sound of Earl Grant Lawrence. This change tempers the often cathartic and trenchant free-form blowing with a coruscating lightness of timbre that adds depth to the group's available tone colors and actually makes the music more accessible. It's an unusual combination of instruments, with electric guitarist Mike Sealy and electric bassist Albey Balgochian completing the line up. The disc's highlights include "Metal Petals," anchored by a loping repeating bass riff and evoking a quasi-Oriental or perhaps even Native American ambiance thanks to the melodic flute improvisations, and "Ogun's Flight," a timbale and percussion driven paean to the Yoruba god of war(iron). "Blues Ore" is a morbid, dirge-like piece by trumpeter Malik that would have been right at home on the Miles Davis' Agharta album.
Malik is probably the best-known among FMRJE, having recorded several CDs under his own name, and sharing the front line with Jimmy Lyons and violinist Ramsey Ameen in one of Cecil Taylor's more memorable Units. His heraldic improvisations rise out of the cacophony of "First Hit" like a fearless and articulate preacher addressing a bar full of drunks. Some of the other pieces here are less successful, but it could be argued that any recording of this type of open-ended collective improvisation is at best a blurry snap shot, incapable of capturing the here-and-nowness of the moment. Part of the definition of "metal" is that it is "a chemical element that can conduct heat and electricity." The FMRJE conduct plenty of both on 7 in One.
Cadence May 1999
7 in One, FMRJE Productions 1998
by Robert Spencer
The name and instrumentation of
this band would lead anyone to expect a pedal-to-the floor
production, "Jazz Iron" delivers right away, courtesy the
superb trumpeter Malik. The under appreciated Cecil Taylor
alumnus, who added so much sheer power to Rova's 1995
Ascension concert, is on fire here. Here and on
"First Hit" he soars as high as he ever has, over a
peripatetic foundation provided by Warren, the Sharrockian
guitarists, and, somewhat surprisingly, the flautist
Lawrence, who throughout this disc (see "Hit Me D/M" and the
furious "Molten Seeds") winds lines around Malik's with an
expert sense of timing and discretion. But everything isn't
flat-out here; "Metal Petals," unexpectedly, is a
shimmering, soft-spoken vehicle for Lawrence, broken in the
middle by a rather uninspired guitar break of the
heavy-metal-in-repose line. Malik's "Blues Ore" is a
strolling electric bath, on which the trumpeter is again
notably imaginative and strikingly lyrical at high speed.
"Rhumba X," the collective improvisation "Mercury," and
"Ogun's Flight" dip into Latin and African percussion
grooves.The only quibble is that I'm not sure, when all is
said and done, that the electric guitarists really add much
of value. But there is great playing all over this disc.
Watch Out! (AC-5017)
Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble is one of the venerable jazz groups of Boston. Together since 1987, the band is rooted in musical partnerships that date back to 1971. Although the group has been self-issueing cassettes and one Cd over the years (a number of which have been reviewed in major music magazines). "Watch Out!" is their first commercially released recording, and their most varied and accessible effort to date. Along with Boston native Warren, the key member of the FMRJE is composer/trumpeter Raphe Malik. Malik is a veteran of avant-garde piano giant Cecil Taylor's band, and played on a number of Taylor's significant 1970's recordings, including the half-million selling "Dark to Themselves."
Malik's compositions, reflecting the jazz tradition from gut bucket blues to Miles Davis modalism, to Cecil Taylor energy music, form the majority of the repertoire. The poly rhythmic drumming of Warren and percussionist Martin Gil provide a rolling, dancing, pounding backdrop for the four-horn frontline, with an acoustic bass/electric guitar string section to tie it all together.
Warren studied with Bill Dixon and
Milford Graves at Bennington College, and along with Gil,
Malik and alto saxophonist Tony Owens, studied with Cecil
Taylor at Antioch College. Bassist Larry Roland has been a
steady performer on the Boston/Roxbury jazz scene for over
twenty years. Guitarist Tor Yochai Snyder has been working
with Warren since they met at Bennington College in 1980.
Tenor saxophonist Raqib Hassan is a veteran of the Roxbury
scene, and flautist Earl Grant Lawrence brings a classical
background to the FMRJE.
by Hairy Kari
It can be said this was a long time
in the making since Dennis Warren, Gil, Owens and Malik all
went to school in the Black Music Division of Antioch
College, directed by none other than Cecil Taylor. It is
jazz and improv in pretty complex form. There is skronk, but
it isn't just sploogin' cause the percussion is intense and
creates an entire layer of sound that doesn't just provide
the rhythm, it competes with the horns. Adam's Garden Sketch
is the simplest, and most groove ridden track. Mallets is a
25:30 747 ride in turbulence, that can be played over
"Runaway Train." Some one should sneak these guys into some
club near the Olympics and when these fat ugly American
touristas come into the joint looking for dinner club jazz
and a high cholesterol cream butter and cheese lobster dish,
FMRJE can just blow them a new colostomy bag.
Cats think on their feet. That's always been a big part of this music's appeal - so much dancing on tightropes - but the latest box of wonders dispatched from Coda West is especially valuable for its productive risks, and spurs the hyperbolic mind to thoughts of finer intelligence in the brewing. The old symbiotic relationship between composing and improvising seems increasingly moot. A Dutch ensemble called it 'instant composing,' and hearing the earliest Duke Ellington sides you know that's not a new thing. but its growing...
So does Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble with Watch Out!. The drummer/leader works with to the score of burning trumpet player Raphe Malik, but for most of this fifth release restlessness makes the loosest seams bulge. Malik and tenorist Raqib Hassan do much of the stretching to the forefront, but it's Warren himself who, with percussionist Martin Gil, keeps up the pushing.
Sometimes that makes for tiring
listening. Better, occasionally, to have the action in your
face instead of rustling forever below your feet. It isn't
all so itchy, fortunately. Dedicated to the struggle against
tyranny in Columbia, Song for the Resistance
is a stirring march with warm echoes of Charlie Haden.
Baptism, moved by the "daunting task of
explaining the inequities of life to a child," proves once
again that passion can burn just as surely at lower flame,
and there are feeling solos from Malik, flautist Earl Grant
Lawrence and bassist Larry Roland.
Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble,
4 star review **** good
Some of us tend to forget what we learned in school about 10 minutes after graduation. Maybe that's because we didn't have teachers as exciting as avant-garde pianist composer Cecil Taylor, who directed the Black Music Division of Antioch College in the early '70s.
A quarter century down the road, four of Taylor's former Antioch students could no longer doubt still pass any pop quiz he threw at them. Taylor's percussive intensity and fierce combustibility are obvious inspirations to drummer Dennis Warren, percussionist Martin Gil, alto saxophonist Tony Owens and trumpeter Raphe Malik. They formed the Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble in 1987, along with bassist Larry Roland, electric guitarist Tor Yochai Snyder, flautist Earl Grant Lawrence and tenor saxophonist Raqib Hassan.
Watch Out! is the FMRJE's fifth album of the '90s and first for Accurate. Although Warren is the group leader, six of the seven tracks were composed by Malik, who has continued to play with Taylor over the years. The eight -minute "D.C." makes an exhilarating opener with its wild poly rhythms and horn arrangements that combines improvisational freedom with deftly structured harmonies. " Kablooey" is aptly titled, and Warren asserts his leadership with incendiary but highly melodic solo.
By contrast, "Adam's Garden Sketch" is a languid bitter-sweet and "Baptism" a melancholy ballad. At 25 minutes, the mercurial "Mallets" progresses through extreme - somber bowed - bass passages, suspenseful percussion solos; a gentle but wary trio of flute, bass and drums; electric guitar like harsh sheets of rain; cawing saxophone over thunderous drums and the harsh scraping of bow on bass; gnashing guitar; a peppery trumpet solo. The grave ending is surprising but well-motivated.
Warren and Gil close the album with
their own "Currents," a three-minute kaleidoscope of
polyrhytms. They use multi-tracking to create a dense,
hypnotic effect. While a little of this sort of thing
usually goes a long way, this piece could actually have been
developed into something longer.
As we all know, drummers not only shape the backbone of the jazz operation, they also make fine leaders. From avant rumblings to world-beat flavorings, these drummers-at-the-helm express their musical outlooks through others while exploring the sonic potential of their kits.
Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble: Watch Out! (Accurate 5017;65:06:****)
4 star Review
The exclamatory title says it all.
The rampaging drummer leads his eight member FMRJE through
trumpeter Raphe Malik's free-spirited compositions,
including "Mallets," a captivating suite
written as a forum for the spirit of the drum. While Warren
crashes, bangs, roars and punches into the out zone, he also
gets to flick, tap, march and brush when the squalls
momentarily dissipate. His "Currents" surges
with poly rhythmic rip tide of drumming.
Dennis Warren & FMRJE
For years drummer Dennis Warren has
been pushing his brand of high energy jazz, selling
cassettes, CDs, and booking gigs for the enlightened.
Together with trumpeter Raphe Malik ( a student of Cecil
Taylor), Warren has kept his AACM-inspired sound alive. I
first heard the Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble
playing, or should I say preaching, against the Gulf war.
When was the last time you remembered jazz as being protest
music? Maybe the Archie Shepp or Max Roach years. Today's
Generation X jazzer's don't rock the corporate boat. The
FMRJE's debut on a national label, Watch Out!
has the vision of Coltrane, orchestration of Sun Ra, and a
creativity all its own. The eight piece ensemble plays a
percussion heavy improvisational music reminiscent of
Ornette's free jazz, Mile's mid-seventies bands, and
Threadgill's approach to music. Thick with meaning. Dennis
Warren doesn't hesitate to wow you with his groove.
Dennis Warren on drums, timbalitos,
and congas; Earl Grant Lawrence on flute; Larry Roland on
acoustic bass; Marco Eneidi on alto saxophone; Martin Gil on
congas and percussion; Raphe Malik on trumpet; Raqib Hassan
on tenor saxophone and mussette; Tor Yochai Snyder on
electric guitar. Recorded at Middle East Downstairs in
Cambridge on February 15, 1994. On Very Live,
multi-percussionist Dennis Warren's Full Metal Revolutionary
jazz Ensemble addresses issues of freedom and community with
intelligence and passion. Trumpeter -composer Raphe Malik's
tunes impose a loose order upon the music, providing
something of a platform without tying anyone's hands
unnecessarily. Malik's solos are among the album's most
compelling, along with the work of flutist Earl Grant
Lawrence. Warren plays with a firm but sensitive touch,
often suggesting but seldom dictating the music's
directions. Overall, the music of FMRJE is very honest, very
intense, and very human. It is also an up-to-date accounting
of the virtues of free jazz.
This is a complete departure from
the ensemble's last full-ensemble recording,
Black Odyssey In America, where the
imaginative balance of a number of African-American musical
forms over shadowed the occasional, modest solo
improvisation. Recorded live in Burlington, Vermont , in the
summer of 1992, this recording is in fact nothing but
improv-almost 60 minutes of uninterrupted minutes of it.
Surprisingly, given the instrumental limitations of the
earlier release, this is also a much stronger, more
interesting recording. For one thing, the live mix is
spacious, clear and strangely reminiscent of the Miles
Davis's bands of the late '70s in its ability to feature any
number of instruments playing at once without the whole
thing collapsing into a cacophonous blur. The solos are fine
throughout (particularly on the extended statements from
trumpet player Raphe Malik and flautist Earl Grant Lawrence)
with Polish vocalist Teresa Sienkiewicz providing some
unexpectedly arty vocalese. But what really stands out are
the rhythm and guitars. Bottom-wise, drummer Dennis Warren
and standup bassist Larry Roland lay down a muted but
furious track that pushes the rest of the performers to the
front throughout. And co-guitarist Tor Yochai Snyder and
Michael Haag alternate tense, Blood Ulmer-style skonks with
the dark yawning chords of Bill Frisell. A fine recording.
The FMRJE was formed in 1987 in
Boston, and is some of the most exciting large ensemble/big
band ( call it what you will) music I've heard in a long
time. It contains the chaos and power of the Euro-large
-jazz orchestras; and the groove of tribal ancestors, mixed
through waves of form and the expression of the 20th Century
sensibilities. Swirling in luscious sound masses, surging
like a clam ocean tide, its naturalness is so attractive to
the ears. No traces of cliched jazz-forms to be found,
albeit in this, very jazz influenced blitzkrieg of
tonalities and rhythmic apportionments. And there is an
unequivocal dedication expressed to improvisation as the art
of the 21st Century, as "This music demonstrates our ancient
roots and our future communications...Improvisations
contains the science of evolution and the natural chaos of
the universe with all its potential. The keys to humanity is
in this music!"
Black Odyssey In America
February 14, 1992
We never thought we'd say it, but right now we're listening to an unsigned demo tape that surveys the same rhythmic ground as the Last Poets, undulates in free-form jazz/funk groove wave across Ornette to Hendrix to Material and Last Exit, screams the same incendiary socio-political message as Gil Scott-Heron, all the while the band lays down the heaviest set of grooves we've heard this side of a sweat-soaked early -'70's James Brown LP side. Musically, these guys are heavy enough to bak up a bold claim - several members studied under Cecil Taylor during his legendary teaching spell at Antioch College, and others have extensive careers gigging with a wide variety of pan-continental ensembles. What it all adds up to is that these guys have been around paying dues far too damn long to go so completely and utterly unnoticed. While admittedly James Kelly's rap could sometimes use the occasional tightening up (he's not quite reached the oratorical dynamism of a Chuck D. just yet, but he's already better than most), his voice nonetheless commands respect. We sorely pressed to single out any eight as better than the rest, but we'd have to stand by "Nightmare In The U.S.A." and "Oil in The Sand" as vocal/instrumental tops, while the band gets theirs on the flawless "Captain Blood," "Black Odyssey In America" and "Soweto."