Progressive-jazz trumpeter Herb Robertson is leading a new band into worldwide prestige. Accompanied by trumpeter Dave Ballou, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Tom Rainey, Robertson and crew have come together to form The MacroQuarktet, an outer-planetary quartet who reach the strangest dimensions conceivably known to the avant-garde genre in their compositions for their latest release Each Part A Whole : Live At The Stone from Ruby Flower Records. The dialogue between the players is so animated that they move with lightning suddenness from being humorous to being serious, sounding somber to jettisoning into a frolicking gallop, stomping boisterously with heavy feet to tippy-toeing lightly across the melodic panes. The playfulness of the melodic lines tangle and shirr with a spontaneous flare while simultaneously supporting each other. The group offers three compositions on the album, "Neuroplasticity," "Ducks And Geese Or Rabbits," and "Basal D. Ganglia" with each piece divided into several parts. The quartet plays a series of ad hoc musical expressions, and strings them one after the other making a short pause between the individual parts so the album moves as one unified stream. The compositions are conceptually based and show a vivid imagination that explores a wide range of freedom and an unrestrictive palette.
The opening track "Neuroplasticity" grows from the instruments moving cautiously to becoming an extroverted expression of blazing horns and rapidly clattering drumbeats. By its final part, the piece is amassed into an embroiling lattice that seems like a metaphor for life. The instruments meander like nomadic figures, and their confluence creates lively activity along the intervals of merging streams. The fluttering flaps of Robertson and Ballou’s horns are dazzling, while the quick-footed tapping of Rainey’s drum sticks have a mind of its own. The group is really smoking through the 4-parts of "Ducks And Geese Or Rabbits" and then turn into a eerie Gothic echo in the opus of "Basal D. Ganglia." The sound effects release harrowing sensations as the dissonant intonations of the horns and Gress’ bruising bass lines send chills up and down the spine. The horns sound like they are being strangulated by Rainey and Gress’ beating thumps, but squiggle rambunctiously until they are set free. The melodic phrases blossom and withdraw in a state of flux at the musicians commands, exploring continually and changing their direction and patterns in the blink of an eye. There is no right or wrong way to play these pieces, it is all based on conceptual forms as the musicians play what they see in their mind‘s eye.
These compositions feel 100% improvised, never letting the audience in on where these tunes will go or lead them. The instruments show a vast range of mutability moving in numerous ways from sputters to gurgles, flaps to shuffles, squiggles to arabesques and so on in a flash. The musicians test their own reflexes and skills to improvise while showing support for each other’s parts. The Macro Quarktet are truly original, and their latest release Each Part A Whole firmly documents their avant-garde approach to bringing melodic concepts into a physical form of creative expression.