Tierra de Nadie ("No Man's Land") is a relatively new group led by the young Colombian pianist Ricardo Gallo, who has already recorded several times as a leader with his Cuarteto. The past few years, however, have seen Gallo moving more and more into the territory of out-jazz (I hesitate to call his work "free"); this year, for example, he appeared with firebrand Peter Evans for the trumpeter's Live in Lisbon disc on Clean Feed. Gallo has maintained his relationship with the Portuguese label, who will imminently release Tierra de Nadie's first album, The Great Fine Line. The CD release party is next Thursday (the 11th) at Joe's Pub.
I first saw Gallo perform as TAUOM, a still-unrecorded trio with Satoshi Takeishi (percussion) and Dan Blake (saxophones). I was immediately impressed by their intricate compositions and staunch refusal of jazz cliches. Tierra de Nadie is a significantly larger group, and the recording features all three musicians aided by an older vanguard of improvisers: former Henry Threadgill drummer and current Oliver Lake sideman Pheeroan akLaff, as well as the well-recorded bassist Mark Helias and trombone giant Ray Anderson. The quintet/sextet has made recent appearances at The Stone and Cornelia Street Cafe, sometimes with Tony Malaby filling in on reeds, sometimes with Tom Blancarte on bass. The group has a richly textured sound, rhythmically anchored even when several players are soloing at once, and tinged with the chordal palette of Gallo's native Colombia. I think he has a great talent for balancing cerebral abstraction with strong rhythmic comping, fluidly moving between classical flourishes and hard-edged grooves. I'm listening to the unedited master for only the second or third time, so here I go spouting cliches... Nevertheless, their adventurous freebop reminds me not only of recent releases on the Jazzwerkstatt label, but also, oddly enough, of pianist Misha Mengelberg's 1983 LP Regeneration (with Roswell Rudd, Steve Lacy, Han Bennink and Kent Carter). Obviously, this group isn't interpreting Monk and Nichols, but their admixture of traditional jazz values with avant-garde technique descends from the same genealogy. Which I mean as a compliment to all the musicians mentioned above.
[You can see some videos on Youtube, though the audio quality leaves something to be desired.]
Tierra de Nadie is playing on Nov. 11th, 7:30 PM, at Joe's Pub, 425 Lafayette St, New York, NY.