A Gathering of Spirits is the appropriately named first track as it conjures images of different cultures and mindsets coming together in unity of purpose; that purpose being enlightenment. Steve Gorn on flute and clarinet creates a multi-faceted and layered approach to the theme that reminds me instantly of John Coltrane’s The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Mike Mahaffay’s brush work on the drums is nuanced and balanced while Eric Hausmann and Scott Steele create a throbbing underlayment on guitar synthesizer and guitar that is fascinating.
Mike Mahaffay has learned balance and nuance from his vast musical experiences. As he says of himself, his musical journey has taken him “from burlesque to symphony halls and everywhere in between.” He has studied jazz and classical and has performed as a member of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra.
Eric Hausmann is an eclectic guitarist who has engaged in almost every style of music conceivable. Hausmann has forayed into experimental soundscapes, jazz, electronica, and even dub.
John Jensen has performed with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and has performed with the McCoy Tyner Big Band. He was also a featured soloist with the United States Navy Band for twelve years in addition to playing for ten years with John Previti's "Mingus-Monk Tribute Band."
It is his trumpet that seizes the pulse while Scott’s guitar work is almost frenetic, except that there is no loss of control. Scott is clearly in complete mastery of what transpires and only a complete mastery allows him—and indeed all of Tres Gone—to maintain discipline where no structure exists. This is Free Jazz at its finest. The piece is then augmented by Michael Stirling’s tambura and vocals. Because of those vocals, the raga begins to emerge and carries through to the end. A brilliant fusion of Free Jazz and raga.
The link below is to a YouTube video of High Octane Vaseline recorded at Smegma Studios in Portland.
Burnt Whiskey Sky begins the seven track run of studio sessions which include Fred Chalenor on bass alongside Steele, Mahaffay, Jensen and Michael Lastra who supplies the theramin and sampling.The rhythm section holds down a more classic jazz structure as the melody makers break into freestyle. Steele’s distinguishable guitar assumes a rightful place of extension and exploration. It is not quite clear whether or not this contains real or imagined allusions to Frank Zappa’s Burnt Weeny Sandwich but feel free to indulge in far-flung associations.
There is a humorous, if not hilarious, twisting in Gershwin Stumbles. The song’s title is given vivid melodic and rhythmic imagery. The back-dropped nod to Rhapsody in Blue then moves to the forefront only to be suppressed again as Gershwin has not only apparently stumbled but has fallen and knocked himself out cold.
This track is reminiscent of something more progressive than free jazz. It reminds of Robert Fripp’s Exposure album. The experimentation remains and actually frames a fitting conclusion to the album in general.
It is a brilliant album conceived and performed by truly brilliant musicians.