By: Dee Dee McNeil, Musical Memoirs
Tim Halderman, tenor saxophone/piano/flute/composer/arranger; John Goode, words/vocals; Dan Bennett, alto saxophone; Justin Walter, trumpet; Jordan Schug, cello; Jonathan Taylor, drums; Ben Willis, bass.
A tentative piano solo opens the first cut and then the poetry begins. Poet, John Goode is featured and this entirely original composed and arranged music by Tim Haldeman was prepared for a performance at the Ann Arbor Jazz Festival. This Haldeman album is dedicated to the people of Flint, Michigan, who suffered from dirty and dangerous drinking water that stunned our nation. How could this happen in America?
Goode’s poetry is thought provoking. He recites: “I followed whiskey into the county of Legionella, through the buzzing shotgun carcasses and moon-colored milkweed. I carried the White-Tailed Deer and Upland Sandpiper and Fox Snake, and I built a grave for each.”
Then he chants, “Ojebway – Ojebway – Ojebway” to remind us of the Moccasin people or the Chippewa, American Indians who were hunters and fishermen and who chose peace over war. A people, like all humanity, who depend on clean water to survive.
Haldeman is the pianist, the tenor saxophonist and the flautist on this recording. As the composer, his music is open and artistic like Goode’s poetry. They make a stunning pair, tied at the hip by the freedom they exude in both contemporary music and poignant spoken word. When track-one expands from poetry to Avant-garde experimentation, a blues-based composition rises like an unexpected storm on a sunny day and plays for five and a half minutes. Cut #2 features Ben Willis on bass, walking slowly, as if his load is heavy and his back is bent. Jordan Shug’s cello is a sweet surprise in this jazzy cracker-jack-box of music. There are lots of surprises. Without chordal accompaniment of piano or guitar, the horns float freely and the bass, along with Jonathan Taylor on drums lock the rhythm into place. Goode is back with more spoken word on the fourth cut. Although his words are amazingly beautiful and paint fluid verbal pictures, his monotone vocals are less appealing. Taylor is a dynamic drummer, who can be heard beneath the fray, spinning like an industrial fan and pushing the ensemble forward. However, at times, the horn harmonies begin to sound like a New York traffic jam. Shug’s cello brings relief, like a stop sign in front of a speeding truck. It was startling, on the” Weld Flashes/Open Water” tune.
On the final original composition, “Bird’s On Fire” Haldeman is back at the piano to accompany poet, John Goode. This is a pure work of art. If you are a lover of poetry, modern jazz, artistic expression and unscripted improvisation, this is a production you will hold dear.