Gerald Cleaver: Uncle June - Be It as I See It
Fresh Sound New Talent
Since moving to New York permanently in 2002, former Detroiter Gerald Cleaver has had an impressive array of sideman gigs — David Torn to Miroslav Vitous — but he's also establishing himself as a captivating composer-bandleader, calling on a likewise impressive array of fellow musical travelers to help him express the sounds in his head. This release with his combo Uncle June — he has several concurrent group projects going — begins with a brash bang, and the shouted admonition "To love!" Considerable caterwauling (and I mean that in a good way) and poetic elaborations ensue. In subsequent sections, there are electronic keyboard storms and other abstract passages; "Charles Street Quotations" is built on the kind of kernel melody that the late Steve Lacy often traded in. But more than anything else, Cleaver's third disc as a leader — which takes the Northern migration of his family as its theme — is about gentleness and balladry, often delicate melodies intricately arranged for saxophones and winds (Andrew Bishop and Tony Malaby) and viola (Mat Maneri). Former Detroiter Ryan Mackstaller and bassist Drew Gress are among the others rounding out the sound with Cleaver, a dynamic drummer who's all about subordinating his formidable chops to the overall musical statement.