Reviews – THE NOMMONSEMBLE    Life Cycle (AUM020)

"This album is exhibit A in the case that New York free jazz is -not- mired in the '60s. [These four musicians] have developed a music that swings in a new way to its own set of rules."
– Ed Hazell

"...ample opportunity for Whit Dickey to spin his musicians into an elastic, complexly-woven hymn to the rising chords of his imagination. If you'd like proof that freedom and coherence are not enemies but lovers, look no further."
– Ben Watson

"I've never heard an unconvincing performance by this drummer, but this record is brilliant even by his standards. It's like the clarified atmosphere after a rainstorm. Electric."

"There are a group of jazz musicians playing in and around the city that have been making such consistently great music that it can be hard to keep up. Positioned to the left of the mainstream, draped in quasi-mysticism and almost righteously avant-garde, these musicians seem intimidating at first blush. But there are three new albums [from this group] that are both surprisingly accessible and deserving of attention. The Nommonsemble is a perfect example..."
– Seth Mnookin

"The imagination and instrumental command of every player here are beyond reproach, and their interactions are near the highest level, though in a somewhat abstract way. Dickey's drumming sets the pace (no pun intended) with his resolute avoidance of any extended rhythmic repetition or anything even remotely resembling a groove, as might be expected from a player of the Milford Graves stylistic school. Brown and Maneri are master manipulators of timbre as a tool of expression, with the way their notes sound counting for as much, or more, than the particular notes, with Maneri especially digging into microtonal nuances, while Shipp is a subtle colorist with his distinctive harmonies.

Unlike clichˇs of New York free jazz, this is not music in which overwhelming energy plays much part; equal interplay and appreciation of piquant sound combinations are the main attraction, and, in the hands of this quartet, prove extremely enticing and fully rewarding on repeated hearings."
– Steve Holtje, CDNOW Senior Jazz Writer
"With certainty is the assignment of titles to each part of the new AUM Fidelity release, LIFE CYCLE, by the Nommonsemble. As certain as is the determination of each of the players in the group to carve out their distinctive channels of sound never leaving the effort of the group for one second.

It is a natural tendency for me to want to attach meaning to the tracks as the music unfolds. Yes, life does start out with the hook of a ballad, easy going and full of wonder. But in the living is the activity of contrapuntal events one after the other that can hopefully build wisdom. It is interesting that the cut entitled "War" follows the first "Wonder". But it makes sense that "Games" follows "War". "Love" entrances the listener with a piano solo slowly moving into more serious attention with the sax and viola mergence, terminating with a gentle question of sincerity that accompanies emotion. With "Acceptance" is relatively non-eventful motion, steady and moving forward, delicately with the presence of the flute and pizzicatos of the viola. "Transformations" gradually tears its way through time, like a caterpillar larva becoming a butterfly. And life begins in the same way that it began originally. Quiet, soft and unpresumptuous. Up in the air. With all that potential resting somewhere in the future.

The truth is that Whit Dickey's conception for this album is matched in richness with the musicians he chose to realize his sound dreams. The sound quality of the instrumentation has a dynamic which allows it to blend in surprising ways. There are times when I cannot tell the difference between Brown's distinguished sax or flute playing and Maneri's exquisite manipulation of his viola. The color of both melds into one thread. It should be noted that Maneri's viola does not supply rhythmic backup for the group. The viola is one of the main players instead of taking the place that the string bass might take as a rhythm instrument which is in this case often supplied by the piano. Yet the piano interchanges providing a solid rhythm with being a lead instrument. Dickey's tactful and sensitive drumming and Shipp's piano mastery build the musical space and provide the limits for the expansiveness of the space. Dickey strikes one limit with the wispiness of the cymbals and the lightness with which he often plays the drums and Shipp creates bass oriented chordal barriers that cannot be knocked down or valiantly constructs walls of ostinatos that are extremely captivating and impenetrable.

This group of musicians puts a slant on the seriousness of improvised music. Take heed in the way in which the recording its constructed. It is not only about life, in general, but also about the way in which improvised music has turned the music world upside down because musicians keep doing it; they believe in it, and they are not going to stop. So ingrained in human nature is the sense that drives an individual to discovery. What continually inspires that sense assumes a valuable role in the life cycle."
– Lyn Horton


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