Grass Roots : Sean Conly / Alex Harding / Darius Jones / Chad Taylor – Grass Roots

Grass Roots : Sean Conly / Alex Harding / Darius Jones / Chad Taylor – Grass Roots

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[AUM075] - CD in 4-panel digipak

Darius Jones: alto sax, composition
Alex Harding: baritone sax, composition
Sean Conly: bass, composition
Chad Taylor: drums, composition

Essence treatise from the group:
A GRASS ROOTS musical movement implies that the creation of the music and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures within the arts/music community. Grassroots music is made at the local level, not designed like a corporate product. It is like a home cooked meal, simmered long with lots of love, for a fuller flavor than its mainstream counterparts. GRASS ROOTS is made up of a unique group of musicians who believe in the power of music to change our reality. They have volunteered their time and efforts to this music with dedication and care, just as many other volunteers in the community have given their time to supporting local concerts. This intensive aural sharing can lead to helping the international fellowship of man: musicians, thinkers, listeners, in other words – all of us!

"We bear witness to the hive mind in the music itself. A shared ecstasy shines forth in each second of this recording" –Bryon Hayes, Exclaim!

"The strong personalities of everyone come out on these recordings, not in competition but in cooperation. Harding’s burly baritone finds companionship with Jones’ passionate, room-filling alto. Conly and Taylor proactively initiate the direction of a song, providing guidelines that the saxophonists can easily exploit. Sharply defined blues or r&b themes serve as launching pads for abstract expeditions. The mixture of spontaneity with clear-cut harmonic construction is made possible by the symbiosis forged. Grass Roots’ first project fulfills the promise of its members, and then some." –S. Victor Aaron, Something Else!

"When the saxophonists pair up for the sprinting melody lines that launch many of these pieces, it’s honestly one of the most exhilarating sounds in jazz circa 2012. Conly and Taylor are a loose but keenly attuned rhythm section, locked in with each other and swinging like mad. A multifaceted and carefully considered record that also happens to muster an almost convulsive energy." –Phil Freeman, Burning Ambulance

"Brap! There are few sounds as satisfying as the brassy belch of a baritone sax. Like The Thing’s Mats Gustafsson, Alex Harding treats his baritone as an extension of the rhythm section, anchoring the pieces with fat, stomping riffs. But he also uses it as a lead instrument, coaxing lyrical phrases and atavistic howls from its valves, around which the brilliant altoist Darius Jones ducks and weaves. Taking in bluesy free-bop, exotic Ethio-jazz, and avant-garde abstractions, Grass Roots remains remarkably cohesive, distinguished by its taught and muscular post-hip hop sound, and the group’s highly sensitive use of space." –Stewart Smith, The List

"Together these four sublimate ego for mutual ideology; each contributes to the writing process, with obvious consideration paid towards maintaining a unified group sound.
Even at their most outward bound, as on the manic collective improvisation, “Ricochet,” they maintain a sense of focused identity. Their predilection for New Thing-era aesthetics manifests immediately on the spirited opener, “Hotttness,” which alternates between episodes of Ayler-esque frenzy and Arkestra inspired groove – a creative arc that similarly underscores tunes like “Lovelorn” and “Schnibbett.” The latter number demonstrates the group’s effortless mastery over modulating tempos and sudden shifts in texture and tone, segueing gracefully from coiled angularity and hushed pointillism to affecting catharsis. Whether careening with virtuosic precision on the old fashioned swinger “Flight AZ” or regaling with phantasmagoric detail on the impressionistic tone poem “Hovering Above,” Grass Roots conveys the egalitarian nature behind its name with infectious enthusiasm." –Troy Collins, Point of Departure

Grass Roots members: alto saxophonist/composer Darius Jones has been astonishing folks with his voluminous gifts since arriving in NYC, and worldwide since the release of his debut, Man’ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing), in 2009. Drummer/composer Chad Taylor has contributed extensively to the greatness of both the Chicago and New York music scenes; his long-running Chicago Underground Duo/Trio/Quartet/Orchestra project with cornetist Rob Mazurek has brought him perhaps the greatest acclaim to date. Taylor’s previous blessed appearance on AUM Fidelity was as 1/3 of Triptych Myth’s The Beautiful. Alex Harding is one of the very few modern musicians who have mastered the baritone saxophone, and he has performed and/or recorded with everyone from David Murray to Aretha Franklin; Sun Ra Arkestra to Angélique Kidjo. Most recently (at time of this album's release) he was an original cast/band member of the musical FELA! (both on Broadway and the traveling group). Bassist/composer Sean Conly has been integrally active in numerous NYC jazz scenes since the mid-90s, touring and/or recording with a vast array of artists, from Andrew Hill to Regina Carter; Paquito DeRivera to Stefon Harris.

Because each member of Grass Roots composes for this group, each track (in its multiple layers) is distinct unto itself yet integral to the whole. Their sectional arrangements evince great thought & attention to detail; the performances thereof always bring the soul of unfettered expression. Orchestral fanfares evolve into monster grooves with longing melodies; gloriously searing free sections lock down again into monster grooves. Mackadocious!

[ The final piece here – improvised in the studio after the principal work had been accomplished – is something else entirely. While listening to its creation, our own mind conjured an alien landscape rich with flora and fauna, which the group then proceeded to explore, seemingly from the perspective of a giant dragonfly. ]

1. Hotttness - 08:01
2. Lovelorn - 09:15
3. Ricochet - 03:50
4. Schnibbett - 11:50
5. Flight AZ 1734 - 06:39
6. Whatiss - 10:45
7. Hovering Above - 08:31

1, 2 by Darius Jones (AstonBoymusic, ASCAP)
4 by Sean Conly (Sean Conly, BMI)
5 by Alex Harding (Niseche Music, BMI)
6 by Chad Taylor (ctorb, ASCAP)
3, 7 by Grass Roots

Produced by Steven Joerg & Grass Roots
Recorded by Michael Marciano
at Systems Two Studio, Brooklyn on August 26, 2011
Mixed with and mastered by Michael Marciano
Cover photograph: “The Great Newpression, 2012”
by Thomas Sayers Ellis
Portrait photographs by John Rogers
Package design by Ming@409