Balance: Conjure (Two Rooms, 2022)

March 30, 2023 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Balance: Conjure

Pianist Michael Malis and saxophonist Marcus Elliot developed and recorded these pieces together in the first month of 2020, and the Trinosophes-associated Two Rooms Records released it late last year. Alternating between Malis and Elliot compositions before ending with a Lawrence Williams piece, the album encompasses several different moods, with the musicians sometimes playing harmoniously, and other times seeming more confrontational. Two significant guest artists push the musicians even further. The opening title track features the brick-hard poetry of Chace Morris, who returns on the more patient but no less stern “Serpent’s Serpent”. The other guest is master drummer Gerald Cleaver, who helps steer the ambitious, fractured “MRA” through its various movements, and helps give the exhilarating “Number Four” its swing. The remainder are just Elliot and Malis. Both of them follow angular paths during “Leap Year”, but occasionally one takes off and flies. Malis drives the train during “9-24”, but both players are in perfect formation. The longest piece, “Possible Futures”, hangs on Malis’ extended notes, which sometimes hang weightless, which Elliot contrasts by switching to bass clarinet. At times it’s easy to think there’s a deep, bowed string instrument being played. Both the artist and album couldn’t have been more accurately named.


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