Record Review - 2 August 05 2000

New York-based drummer Franklin Kiermyer has recorded with luminaries such as Pharoah Sanders, Dave Douglas and John Stubblefield. His latest efforts include the inauguration of his own label, SunShip, via deliverance of two disparate, heartfelt recordings. One release finds Kiermyer's propulsive drumming underpinning Buddhist chants, while this quartet outing uses the mid-'60s John Coltrane Quartet as a means to explore spirituality.

Seven thoughtfully devised songs alternate high-energy free-for-alls with more low-keyed, meditative fare. Only the opening title track tosses aside meter, using Kiermyer's free form polyrhythmic drumming as a springboard for inspired improvised solos. All other songs (with titles such as "Purification," "Invocation" and "Compassion") are designed with a veiled adherence to common time. But the energy level never drops. Jamaica-born saxophonist Michael Stuart has honed an arsenal of saxophone techniques — including multiphonics, altissimo, false fingerings and primal screams — for purposes of relaying substantial melodies via development of motifs. His tenor playing is excellent, having managed a feat most players cannot — the combination of free, aggressive blowing with true melodicism.

Bassist Fima Ephron, a notable fixture on the New York scene, combines choice notes with ear-catching rhythmic variance to fit the scheme nicely. Pianist John Esposito's tremolo accompaniment and 16th note solo improvisations pay tribute to the great McCoy Tyner with taste and discretion. With his wrap-around blanket of sound, drummer/composer Kiermyer deserves a good deal of credit for a programmed work that delivers a transcendental journey by way of substantial musicianship.

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