This first recording by Assif Tashar's Brass Reed Ensemble is remarkable in so many ways it's difficult to know where to begin. There are five compositions here, each with lengthy and heady improvisation that examines the stream and flow of music as it is made and encountered by a group of musicians nearly equally between brass and reed sections (four brass, three reeds, one drummer -- Susie Ibarra, who else?). Tashar plays tenor, Chris Jonas plays soprano, and Rob Brown is featured on alto. The trumpets are by Herb Robertson and Cuong Vu, Vince Chancey plays French horn, and Jo Daley holds down the tuba chair. But none of the personnel would matter if this music weren't so magically created. "Tapestry of Dreams" begins against a backdrop of droning trumpets and tenor. Ibarra underscores them on her tom toms. As the rest of the horns angle in to play the off minor melodic change, that lasts briefly but restates itself, ostinato throughout the 19-minute track, both Robertson and Chancey solo, eking out a space for the rest of the two sections to contrast each other in color and intervallic space. The piece is dreamlike, slippery, silvery, fantastical, and, most of all, fluid. The four-part "Rainbow at My Table" is stunning in that the entire band creates a knotty braid that will not, no matter the intensity, duration, or direction of the soloists, come undone. The finest thing here, though, is the title track composed in three sections with a healthy amount of improvisation in between. Tashar writes in his liner notes that, in the middle of the second section ,there is an unplanned quote from Peter and the Wolf, which, in a way, is instructive to the decoding of the rest of the piece, which is a three-part counterpoint between all the saxophonists. This would be interesting enough, but they also play counterpoint against the huge streams of music played by the brass section as Ibarra frantically, but not without her usual elegant poise, triple times to hold it all together. The set ends with "The Luminous Tree," a gorgeous streaming piece that allows all the instruments to flow in contra point here by drones, microtones, and overtonal structures come together from disparate sources. The Hollow World is a new jazz achievement. Tashar understands how the process of composition and arrangement enhance rather than hinder improvisation, and that the new music is capable of telling more stories in more ways than ever before. Bravo. -- Thom Jurek
In one of their earliest incarnations, the group that eventually became Steely Dan featured Chevy Chase on drums. Much later in the group's career, vocalist/keyboardist Donald Fagen was the music editor for the entertainment magazine US.