Arnie Somogyi's Ambulance - Accident and Insurgency - Atlantic Audio Society
26 May 2008Atlantic Audio Society
Accident and Insurgency seems an odd title for this recent effort by bassist Arnie Somogyi's quintet Ambulance. The music heard here isn't at all strident, in-your-face stuff. Rather, it's meditative, elegant music, sophisticated in its color palette and descriptive of the seashore and marshlands around Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast of England and nearby Snape Maltings, where Ambulance were the first jazz group to be invited to establish a residency. For the most part, it's intimate music, a cohesive, sympathetic group effort that eschews showy riffs and knock-dead solos in favor of subtle variations and changes in mood.
On this disc, the regular Ambulance personnel, consisting of Paul Booth, tenor and soprano saxophones and bass clarinet; Tim Lapthorn, piano, fender rhodes and melodica; Dave Smith, drums; Ron Townsend, tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute, bass clarinet and laptop; and Somogyi, double bass, joined by Eddie Henderson on trumpet and flugelhorn. A Yank who distinguished himself playing with Herbie Hancock and Art Blakey, Henderson first toured with Ambulance in 2006. He makes his presence felt here not only in the tumbling down melody that provides a contrast in rhythm and tempo in the middle of Lapthorn's ballad "Tumbledown," but in the ways he melds into a very congenial group effort.
Upon first hearing, one is immediately impressed by the degree to which these fellows have settled in and absorbed the color, atmosphere and deep mood of the coastal setting. Both consciously and unconsciously, it informs their well focused improvisations. I must admit I do get a little annoyed at the laptop business and the electronic loops with actual sounds of the sea. (Why, when a drummer of Dave Smith's caliber can do so much to create the desired atmosphere with his brushes?) They do use the electronic stuff sparingly in only two tracks, so it isn't very intrusive. One thing I like about this group is the versatility in their musicianship, which multiplies the color possibilities in a piece like "Don't Improvise." Here, the gag is in the title, referring to the present-day trend to cut down on improvising in favor of repetitive grooves. Somogyi and his mates opt for an unchanging melody in the bass and piano with plenty of room to improvise "over the top" by delicious combinations of soprano saxophones and bass clarinets.
Local color is reflected in such whimsical titles as "Serenity," "Lobster Pot 999," "Mick the Fish" (a vendor of fresh cod on Aldeburgh beach, and definitely not a fish!), and "Captain Courageous." Add two Ambulance standards, "Walking wounded" and "Sirenity" (the alternating pulse tones being the sound of a European emergency vehicle, quite distinct from the long low wail of historic sirens on this side of the pond), and you have a rich album. They conclude with "Broadside," which is the name of their favorite beer, with a nod to Duke Ellington's "Caravan" as a backdrop.
Related LinksArnie Somogyi's AmbulanceAccident and Insurgency