Tim Berne, Michael Formanek, Craig Taborn, Gerald Cleaver

The music of the Michael Formanek Quartet offers the listener a kind of tough love. At the Regattabar Thursday night (as on their new ECM release, Small Places), they built tunes outward from small rhythmic cells of melody — repeated, then extended, knotted with sharp angles of dissonance, displaced accents, and odd rests. But it was beautiful stuff — delving into the noise and clamor of free jazz but with a compelling formal integrity.

It helped that this was a crew who, in addition to a previous Formanek Quartet ECM disc (2010’s The Rub and Spare Change), have played together often in each other’s bands. Bassist Formanek has been a regular with alto saxophonist Tim Berne, as has pianist Craig Taborn. And drummer Gerald Cleaver has the kind of O-positive jazz blood type that’s perfect for this kind of music.

The first tune, “Pong,” off the new album, was typical: a three-note ostinato played in unison by the band, which Berne gradually extended, Taborn joining him in unison until, almost imperceptibly, the piano part became its own thing — a full flung solo extending rhythmically and harmonically all over the map, running in tandem with Berne’s focused deliberations.

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  Topics: Jazz , Craig Taborn, Tim Berne, regattabar,  More more >
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