Icepick – Amaranth (2015, Astral Spirits)
Listen [excerpt from “Rosso Corsa”, Astral Spirits soundcloud]
In 1997, Jazz Times boldly asked, what does the future hold for jazz? The article, a veritable who’s who opinion piece featured both jazz legends and contemporary notables proffering their opinions on where jazz was heading moving into the 2000s. Among those sounding off, Herbie Hancock managed to get to the heart of the matter: “I continue to be optimistic about the future of jazz, meaning I don’t always expect times to be wonderful for the economic life of jazz, but when times are not that good, jazz goes underground and still functions and we weather those storms.” Despite any cynics, Herbie was spot on—there is a lot to be optimistic about when it comes to jazz. Twenty years on, one particularly exciting combo is Icepick featuring Nate Wooley (trumpet), Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten (bass), and Chris Corsano (percussion). Let me tell you, the trio are cooking with gas through and through. “Rosso Corsa” and the closer “Rare Rufescent” could be lost session tracks from Ornette!, while the middle piece of the album, “Fuschia,” veers deep into the sonic forrest of improvised music. Wooly’s swirling trumpet, sounds like an oscillating tape machine on its last legs, Corsano’s bowed cymbals and Håker-Flaten’s own Paganini-esque rapid-fire bow strokes on the upright push jazz to its outer limits. The middle track is four and a half minutes spent obliterating what it was hitherto to be a trumpet/rhythm trio. Though jazz may never return to the popular prominence it held in the early and mid-twentieth century (largely due to the sweeping cultural debasement concomitant with late-capitalism and so too the closely linked popular “recuperation” —to borrow Hebdige’s term—of jazz), this music isn’t going anywhere. As long as folks like Corsano, Håken-Flaten, and Wooly continue to play with unmistakably raw emotion and intensity and continue to test the waters for new modes of expression and style, jazz not only has a future, it may yet be entering its golden age.