Last Updated on Thursday, 17 December 2009 03:51 Written by Tom Krehbiel Sunday, 06 June 1993 17:06
Drummer Bobby Battle's first date as leader is a winner on all counts. The Offering delivers superb music, superlative sonics, and superior production.
Battle's longest and most productive association (at least in terms of recording) was with the Arthur Blythe group. He has also worked with Don Pullen, Archie Shepp, and David Murray.
Battle, like many jazz percussionists today, uses the cymbals more than the drums themselves. Unlike some, he works the metal masterfully, keeping a precise yet swinging beat beneath a wash of shimmering timbres and colors. When he takes a solo, he reverts to more actual drumming, but you can tell that he can hardly wait to switch his attention back to the Zildjians.
Battle's colleagues on this session are Larry Willis at the piano, bassist Santi Debriano, and tenor sax giant David Murray. Murray, in particular, blossoms in this company. His playing is more relaxed and freely melodic than on many of his own recordings. Perhaps having no responsibilities aside from showing up and playing felt good for a change.
Murray plays on four of the six pieces in the program. The opening "Ballad for Frederick," a Willis composition dedicated to the memory of drummer Freddie Waits, is Murray's tour de force. His economical eloquence here communicates so clearly and so fully that the composer's own solo is anticlimactic.
Murray takes over "Jitterbug Waltz" almost as fully, but leaves more room for his colleagues' statements on Monk's "I Mean You" and bassist Santi Debriano's "Jazz Laughter."
There are two trio pieces on the disc: the title tune, written by Debriano, and "To Wisdom, The Prize," penned by Willis. "Wisdom" has a Latin-bossa beat behind an airy melody that Willis harmonizes warmly. "The Offering" is more of a bass figure than a melody. Its sparseness is its strength and it inspires the trio to turn out a performance of impressive variety and invention.
Debriano's "Jazz Laughter" is even more cryptic and challenging than "The Offering." It's so much so that the groups falls into a relatively conservative, but pungent, 4/4 swing after negotiating the prickly melody. Perhaps that's the joke that's at the base of the "laughter."
Now for the sound. It's as good as it gets. In fact, it's better. That's right, better than (insert the name of your favorite audiophile label here). Thirty seconds after you start the disc playing, you'll be scanning the cover to see if there's some explanation. You'll find that engineer and producer Pierre M. Sprey uses no mixing board or filtering or compression or equalization or noise reduction or multitracking or overdubbing. There are further specifications, but they all tend to support the "less is more" rule for engineering natural sounding recordings.
The packaging doesn't follow that rule. It includes an unusually thick printed insert that provides a biographical sketch and clear photo of each performer as well as descriptive essay on the music and the recording session.
In other words, The Offering offers everything a jazz lover could possibly ask.tk 1993.08