Yes, that’s a photo of Paul Desmond above.
Chris Kelsey is a writer and saxophonist who’s recorded a half dozen or so albums for the Cadence and CIMP labels, none of which I’ve heard, and now this album, Not Cool (As In, The Opposite Of Paul Desmond) which is self-released. On it, he and his bandmates (trumpeter Chris DiMeglio, bassist François Grillot and drummer Jay Rosen) are doing a kind of hyped-up Ornette Coleman-ish thing, with additional tricks culled from the fifty-plus years of jazz that have happened in the wake of The Shape of Jazz to Come, Change of the Century, This is Our Music et al. The tracks have witty titles like “Sameness Is Way Better Than Differentness!”, “If Jazz is Dead (Can I Have Its Stuff?)” and “The Past is a Frightening Prospect.” All told, these four men crash through six tracks in seven seconds shy of an hour, and none of those pieces—not even the two that blast past the twelve-minute mark—feels like an endurance test. Not even when Kelsey picks up the hated soprano saxophone.
Kelsey is not in any way an Ornette-ish saxophonist, of course; nor is DiMeglio pulling much from Don Cherry’s playbook. A few pieces have that same kind of dancing melody that Coleman specializes in, but the two hornmen remind me more of Daniel Carter and Roy Campbell, the co-leaders of fully improvising quartet Other Dimensions in Music. Like ODIM’s records, this is a 100 percent collective effort; everybody’s pushing the music forward at all times. Even “The Past is a Frightening Prospect,” the closest thing to a ballad on Not Cool, has an energy that’ll make that big muscle in your thigh start twitching. This is jazz that’ll make your kids run around and jump on and off the furniture, if you’ve got ’em. Kelsey switches from tenor to alto to (ugh) soprano, sometimes within the course of a single track, and his command of each horn is impressive. He uncoils lines that seem impossible to produce with just one lungful of breath, but can just as easily sputter out a series of Anthony Braxton-esque quacking noises. DiMeglio, too, has multiple voices at his disposal, including high-pitched runs and spittle-flecked smears. When the two of them start revving up in polyphonic unison, it’ll make your eyes bulge like someone popped your space helmet. On the final track, which pairs a Kelsey original, “The Sweet Trauma that is Free Jazz” with a run through Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts,” the pair manage to very nearly match the energy of the Ayler brothers, which, given that Don Ayler was insane and (to the best of my knowledge) Chris DiMeglio is not, is quite something.
This is a really hot slab from four guys who give their absolute all on every track. It’s easily the free-est, out-est disc I’ve reviewed as part of this project, and I highly recommend it. Given that statement, the two questions below are totally redundant, but here they come anyway.
1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Yes.
2. Should you buy this record? Yes.
Link to purchase, if you’re so inclined…