Before Michael Bates discovered the musical possibilities of jazz‚ the Canadian bassist's music of choice was hardcore and punk. This could explain why Clockwise charges like a pit bull who hates lipstick‚ but that ignores Bates' extensive compositional work in classical music. So we've got jazz‚ punk and classical -- which mix about as well as oil‚ water and soufflés‚ right? Not so fast! Because if Ornette Coleman wrote classical music‚ this is how it would sound.
"Great Exhibition" will either hook you or drive you completely insane. Stacking rhythms of 5‚ 4 and 3 on top of each other‚ Bates seems to create a musical chaos even Sun Ra would shake his head at. Russ Johnson's trumpet and Quinn Nachoff's tenor literally scream at each other‚ while Jeff Davis cries percussive havoc behind them. But while "Exhibition" uses the same shock-and-awe tactics Stravinsky loved‚ there's a brilliant network of connections -- both mental and sonic -- that bring the piece together splendidly.
Clockwise wouldn't work without total buy-in from all the participants‚ and Bates has all that and more. His intense foundation gives Davis the freedom to invent new and different flavors of "ballistic." Russ Johnson's acrobatic solos on the frenetic "Marching" just beggar belief‚ while Nachoff's reedwork is Ornette-fractured one minute‚ startlingly subtle the next. It all comes together on "Bloodletting‚" a brilliant noir send-up that keeps getting darker and more dangerous.
When Bates' music itself isn't slapping you around‚ some of his subject matter hits you upside the head. The heroic act that inspired "Rideau Medals" was motivated by a man's brutal attack on his ex-wife‚ while "Lighthousekeeping" has a vein of burning loneliness right at its heart. Bates also pens a perfect tribute to a man who lived to destroy comfort zones‚ legendary filmmaker Federico Fellini.
Forget about stretching the boundaries; this disc stuffs them in an industrial shredder. Bates plays a wicked bass and writes with a startling pen. Thank (insert deity-of-choice) for Dave Douglas‚ whose Greenleaf Music label is made for jazz that horrifies the Majors. Clockwise isn't for everybody‚ but like hardcore - and great jazz‚ come to that - that's the point!