Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dan Axtell - 2012 - Cosmos

Free jazz
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Maybe it’s the arrival of spring and warmer, happier weather, but I have been spending my May nights gazing up at the stars. And the cool thing is, I’ve heard all the gloom and doom about how small we are in the universe’s endgame, and I still feel completely in touch with them. Yes, we are specks of dust on the face of the galaxies, but what does that matter? If I holler at the sky loud enough, somebody will be listening.
I wonder if Dan Axtell and his trio of jazz musicians were feeling the same vibes I’m feeling when they were putting together Cosmos, which I can safely declare one of the most thrilling, joyous, and uplifting albums of 2012 in any genre. The album flows in a completely organic manner that almost betrays the genre; nothing here is ever done for flash or for pomp, and the parts of each song just dance around each other, whether it’s the bass playing a funky groove behind gong reverbs and xylophone tinkles in “Organic Matter” or a cymbal crashing right at the perfect moment to accentuate transitions in “Cosmic Song of Life”. The instruments strike a perfect blend of the authentic and the synthesized, and neither gets in the other’s way; you may be listening to a piercing synthesizer wail before the floor drops out and you’re treated to a haunting piano solo suitable for any self-respecting National Geographic documentary. Harmony is the name of Axtell’s game here, and he doesn’t strike a false note in this set of songs.
Cosmos is simply life-affirming, an album abundant in zest, grace, and soul. And sure, you can read this and just crawl back into your bed, wondering if the world is out to get you. Or you can get a flashlight and put on that pair of shoes you have, the one filled with holes but is still just good enough to walk in. Find a sidewalk, one that hardly anybody passes through, reach up to touch the stars, turn up Cosmos, and holler at the sky. After all, you have to be pretty loud if you want those guys up there to hear you.

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