Graded on a Curve: Daniel Carter,
Telepatia Liquida

As the second decade of the 21st century inches toward its close, jazz has proven extremely durable as a multifaceted genre. It’s safe to say there’s too much sweet action for one set of ears to absorb, but don’t let Telepatia Liquida get sidelined amongst the riches. It’s the second record by multi-horn man Daniel Carter, clarinetist Patrick Holmes, pianist Matthew Putman, bassist Hilliard Greene, and drummer Federico Ughi, and it offers an avant-free stew with considerable bite that’s deepened with threads of lyricism and moments of substantial beauty. Recorded live a year ago at the Forward Festival in Brooklyn, NY, it’s out December 7 on vinyl, compact disc, and digital through 577 Records.

As is normal in jazz, Daniel Carter has recorded a ton, though it took a while for the tape spools to really get spinning. On the NYC scene since the ’70s, his work on bassist William Parker’s 1980 LP Through Acceptance of the Mystery Peace seems pivotal, as both Carter and Parker, along with trumpeter Roy Campbell and drummer Rashid Bakr, later formed the free improv-based Other Dimensions in Music. Reportedly coming together in the early ‘80s, they didn’t get a record out until 1990 via Silkheart.

It was deeper into the ’90s that things really started to break open for Carter. A big part of the equation was Test, a unit conceived to play outdoors (as in the NYC subway system) that could spray the free scorch like a flamethrower. Along with contributing to records by Matthew Shipp, Zusaan Kali Fasteau, Saturnalia String Trio, DJ Logic, and more with William Parker (including Other Dimensions in Music’s collab with Yo La Tengo), he was also part of Tenor Rising Drums Expanding and the One World Ensemble.

Shortly after the Italian-born drummer Federico Ughi arrived in NYC from London, he and Carter established a sturdy relationship. Having formed 577 Records in 2001, Ughi has released roughly three dozen records since, with over a third featuring the drummer in some union with Carter. That includes The Gowanus Recordings, a quartet session from ’09 (recently reissued on vinyl) where Ughi and Carter are joined by trumpeter Demian Richardson, bassist Dave Moss, and pianist Matthew Putman.

Together with his work alongside Carter and Ughi, numerous bios state that Putman played with Ornette Coleman (who in an interesting confluence, served as a mentor figure to Ughi). However, music is but one component in Putman’s notable activities; he’s also a scientist specializing in the field of nanotechnology (holding or having contributed to 20 patents), a producer of music, plays and films, and a published poet (his book Magnificent Chaos was partially written as he battled successfully against cancer).

Understandably given the achievements listed above, Putman’s pool of recordings is small. Along with his 2008 CD Perennial, he contributes to one track on the self-titled 577 Records’ CD by Wake Up!, a collective featuring the same personnel as heard on The Gowanus Recordings. Most relevant to this review, Putman plays on Telepathic Alliances, the prior studio set by the ensemble who brings us Telepatia Liquida.

Like Carter, bassist Hillyard Green has left his mark on a small mountain of releases, including a significant portion of the essential recordings by free sax titan Charles Gayle, but as a “rhythm player” his name has made the front cover of only a few jackets and booklets. So it goes, but his name is prominently displayed on Telepatia Liquida (and Telepathic Alliances). Here he joins the Texas-born relative youngster Patrick Holmes in rounding out the lineup.

While slim of discography, Holmes was/is a member of the skronk-garage outfit Five Dollar Priest, and more recently was part of Listening Group’s eponymous 2018 577 Record’s release. It’s yet another ensemble featuring Carter and Ughi; amongst the contributors are alto saxophonist Nick Lyons and electronic specialist Jeff Snyder.

The Listening Group LP is a live recording from the 2016 Forward Festival. It and Telepatia Liquida’s documentation of the 2017 event reinforce the importance of performance in the 577 Records scenario (for the two-night 2018 fest, which takes place at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn, Listening Group plays on December 6 and Telepatia Liquida’s lineup on December 7).

After an introduction of the players from the stage, Telepatia Liquida begins with “Deluxe Light.” Ughi’s drumming is heard first, quickly followed by Greene and Putman as Carter enters on trumpet and Holmes on clarinet. They undertake an enticing introductory free-improv passage that’s quickly followed by Ughi and Greene’s adjustment into a steady, driving rhythmic bedrock from which the horns and piano launch and intertwine.

They could’ve easily kept this situation rolling for a while, but as the six-minute mark approaches everybody drops out except for Holmes and Greene, with Putman reentering in short time. It’s a sweet spot highlighting the appeal of Holmes’ playing, which lacks the flutter often associated with free clarinet and combines well with Carter’s emergence on saxophone. Splendid ebb and flow from the whole group follows as they gradually advance toward a peak of intensity, only for everyone to drop out again save for Ughi in solo mode (and with a little underpinning by Carter).

This leads directly into “Shine-a-town,” where after roughly a minute of unadorned rhythm, Carter bursts in on tenor, followed by Holmes and then the rest of the band, and for a short period the force of the improv somewhat resembles the sound heard on Dave Burrell’s ’69 BYG Actuel LP Echo (or the recordings by Test, for that matter). But instead of remaining in this mode, the group simmers down and with no loss of attention-gripping exploration.

Here they deftly reach a plateau of tangible beauty, but it’s not long before the collectivity begins ramping up, with the bass-drum combo truly a force to be reckoned with as the horns soar and Putman pounds out some massive clusters. Appropriately, the excursion ends with laughter. Interestingly, side two’s “Throne” opens with Putman, Greene and Ughi in something close to balladic mode, which in short time serves as foundation for a killer extended sax-clarinet tangle.

Shortly prior to four minutes in, Putman’s playing shifts and then the whole group redirects into a boisterous but controlled locomotion. This leads into a fabulous run of free-bang keyboard (with Greene and Ughi tearing it up underneath) before the reeds reappear and the setting calms down once more for some isolated tandem horn wiggle. When the others reenter, a groove is briefly established that gives way to a final climb in group power. The record ends with another beauty move inaugurated by the horns. The entire band follows through with a crescendo reminiscent of Coltrane.

Altogether, Telepatia Liquida is a glorious experience, but it’s all effectively heightened by the reality that it was just one night. It’ll be impossible to groove into wax every time these musicians play out (hitting the studio is another matter), but I’m stoked that 577 Records has chosen to do so with at least some of them. They currently have 11 vinyl records available, and if you value free jazz and listening to LPs, the label should be an immediate destination.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

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