Pear transforms one-take conversation into modern jazz ‘extemp’ore’
“We’re old friends and have played together in a lot of different musical groups and genres. But we’ve always shared a love of energized improvisational music. So we made a decision to commit to a series of intense, no-holds-barred free jazz recording sessions.” –Pear’s Rick Milne, percussionist
First impressions in jazz make the big difference. Going by this, Pear’s May 24, 2011 CD release, extemp’ore (meaning ad-lib, spontaneous, off-the-cuff), makes for one hell of a first impression.
The listening mind doesn’t quite know what to make of the juxtaposition of Miles Davis’s voice in interview mode — “Don’t play what you know, play what you hear” — with these seemingly random bass and trifling piano sounds coming out of the opening, and pivotal track, “dewey miles.” It’s an awful lot of chaos for one song, and yet, it works, because Pear has sorted out thought, groove, and progressive movement behind the scenes, especially when the trumpet horns in, leading the epiphany toward some sort of hypnotic, reactive resonance.
Nick Pierone and Rick Milne’s use of vocals in a most unusual way — spoken, not sung, in rap, in conversation, in confessional French as if to a lover — enriches the musical score throughout this experimental project. Pierone is a score composer of shorts, theater, TV, so his orchestral style remains prevalent, whether the late, great Miles Davis intones his jazz rap overlay in “dewey miles” or electric bassist Jimmy Johnson (Allan Holdsworth, James Taylor) sets the mood in the lovely “tribute to lorraine,” as if from a sad movie.
Pierone (on piano) and Milne (percussion) gathered together Johnson, and some fine — if not unorthodox — players to add to the one-take, free-form jazz jam sessions that would become “extemp’ore.” Their special guests include upright bassist on command Jennifer Leitham, guitarist Carl Verheyan, trumpeter Sivad Selim, Guinean Kora master Prince Diabate, and punk rapper Cindy Wonderful (Scream Club).
The result is an amazing, often jaw-dropping series of offbeat, original masterpieces culling together the virile, visceral imagination of spontaneity with intuition, and oftentimes, tapping into unbidden sensual explorations.
“the frenchman” exudes animal magnetism and sexual heat, because of Annie Wadhams, who provides the matter-of-fact, droll with the contained animal lust of innate attractiveness — in intoxicating, intimate French. This is one hot song, mostly tension-filled mood music waiting for her to come-hither again, every luscious, foreign word caressed in a lingering temptation.
Another winning blend of spoken word (rap) and music is “c w.” It’s sure to be a favorite, a surefire stand-out, thanks to Cindy Wonderful who seems to be rapping out important, poignant messages, but under a flippant, effortless street backtalk. “Okaaay. … I started out this journey purely out of love. I had an important message, but forgot what it was. Something to do with believing in dreams, being good, and doing what you do, even when you’re misunderstood, y’know. Wrap your head around my flow…” Genius.
The two most lushly melodic, complete songs in and of themselves — suitable for everyday, mainstream listening — are “a nod to her majesty” and “tribute to lorraine.”
“a nod to…” (only 53 minutes) starts off dramatically, as if in a Celine Dion love song — it’s a full-scale, structured melody, very little embellishments or tangents — then turns into “prince open,” another track entirely, a rollicking, skip-dancing Israeli/Middle Eastern jig.
“tribute to lorraine,” written for Milne’s late mom, is somber, contemplative, and a signature piece for bassist Johnson, who roams a lonely musical landscape. Although the repetitive monotone of the piano is kind of bothersome.
Jazzers looking for the full-bore can hit the fast-paced “carl session 2” and be quite happy. Kudos to guitarist Carl Verheyen for his visionary, dimensional chords laying the foundation for some awesome creative interplay with drums, piano, and what seems everything else under the sun. “fast jenn” also fits into the full-bore jazz category, as the best of straight-ahead in a stomping piano, bass, and cymbal fervor.
Improvisation is nothing new to jazz. It’s what jazz is all about. But what colleagues Milne and Pierone have put together is a cohesive network of the most divergent, oddball (spoken word, bedroom French, a voice message from mom — Milne’s mom, a school yard of children gossiping!) fusions, which work strangely well.
“We’re old friends and have played together in a lot of different musical groups and genres,” explained Rick Milne, of his Pear co-partner, Nick Pierone. “But we’ve always shared a love of energized improvisational music. So we made a decision to commit to a series of intense, no-holds-barred free jazz recording sessions.” Sounds like they succeeded.
Artist quotes from a DL Media press release.