Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
In his typical fashion, reedist, composer, and bandleader Geof Bradfield deployed a veritable notebook of conceptual conceits when writing and formulating his new album Yes, and . . . Music for Nine Improvisers (Delmark). The title refers to a comedic device famously devised by the iconic Chicago improv troupe the Compass Players to propel bits forward and expand them in new directions—actions that are guiding principles in strong musical improvisation too. That directive demands that each participant look out for others in the group as well as for themselves performance-wise. As Bradfield says in the liner notes, “So ‘Yes, and . . . ’ requires you to believe that what you improvise is building on whatever everyone else is doing—even if the response is, ‘Yes, and here’s my contrasting’ response to that.” Bradfield used a set of scales developed by the French composer Olivier Messiaen in writing these pieces, and the album alternates between brief trios for different instrument combinations and full ensemble works that allow the improvisational capabilities of his top-notch group to shine. Of the shorter pieces, “Prelude” features the members of Bash—Bradfield’s project with drummer Dana Hall and bassist Clark Sommers—who lock into a ferociously swinging opener, and “Chorale” is a rich, contrapuntal marvel that features trombonist Joel Adams and trumpeters Russ Johnson and Marquis Hill. The longer pieces feature lush arrangements with lots of moving parts and elegantly swinging drive: “In Flux” highlights the restrained lyric side of guitarist Scott Hesse and the soulful, stop-on-a-dime agility of alto saxophonist Greg Ward, and the tip-toeing twists and turns of “Anamneses” highlight Anna Webber’s plush bass-flute melodies and Johnson’s trumpet playing at its most tunefully pensive. The entire group reconvenes for this album release celebration.