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Love Exists Everywhere, Blue Reality Quartet’s debut album, is ultimately an ode to resilience and human connection in the face of unimaginable loss. Recorded late last year in New York’s East Side Studios, at the height of the pandemic, the album captures an introspective improv session that showcases the meticulous technique and impressionistic explorations of four free-jazz masters.
Determined to have a musical conversation against all odds, legendary saxophonist Joe McPhee, versatile reedman Michael Marcus and avant-garde drummers Jay Rosen and Warren Smith embark on a memorable program framed by the gravity of the moment, but by no means tethered to it. Absent any type of chordal instrument, the unconventional quartet expertly probes and teases sonic atmospheres created in abstract interplay, shading them with somber moods, introspection and contemplative meanderings.
While a palpable heaviness seeps through the seven tracks, the quartet etches out spaces from muted tones that lead to bright spots of exhilarating exchanges, signaling an overall balance and reemergence of life. Far from conveying the kind of blissful ebullience associated with love, “Love Exists Everywhere,” the opening title track, exudes desolation as reeds languorously react to each other, while cymbals, bells, chimes and vibraphone adorn the track with suspended notes that seem to dangle in the air like stars in an ominous night sky.
A sense of momentum builds and steadily courses through “Joe’s Train,” spilling into the playful “Coney Island Funk.” “Bluer Than Blue,” which features McPhee and Marcus meshing melancholically on tenor sax and bass clarinet respectively, is accented by Smith’s luminous vibraphone and Rosen’s rollicking, free-form stick work. “East Side Dilemma” takes off with freewheeling urgency and then settles onto a higher plain conducive to dueling solos between McPhee and Marcus, while Smith and Rosen interlock in intense rhythmic communion.
There’s a shift back to the album’s overall meditative quality at the end with “Warren’s Theme.” Marcus elongates his phrases on bass flute and Smith’s vibraphone shimmers translucent clusters amid the percussive jangles, rattles, clashes and splashes. It’s as if they were trying to rouse the listener from a dream, only there never really was one. — Lissette Corsa