Out in the high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico, some 7,500 feet above sea level in the foothills of the majestic Sangre de Christo Mountains, strange and wonderful things were bubbling up when keyboardist Brian Haas and drummer Matt Chamberlain met in the magical adobe style Frogville Studios for three days of unadulterated improvisation. Unlike their previous collaboration, 2013’s Frames, which was meticulously through-composed by Haas and performed with exacting precision by the duo, their second recording together, Prometheus Risen, is a free-flowing, no-holds-barred, in-the-moment encounter based on daredevil instincts, a shared arranger’s aesthetic and mutual trust. While all the keyboard parts, Moog bass lines, ambient washes, textures, loops and groove playing on the kit might suggest a precisely-crafted project involving multiple layers of overdubbing and tons of post-production work, the entire album was in fact done live in the studio.
Chamberlain, a revered drummer who has appeared on recordings with Brad Mehldau, Bill Frisell, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Morrissey, Mike Gordon, Of Montreal, Marco Benevento, David Bowie and Herbie Hancock, among countless others, fully embraced the idea of exploring freely in the studio with Haas who, in addition to his solo work, tours with Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Nolatet.
Together on Prometheus Risen, Chamberlain and Haas present spontaneous composition at its finest. Chamberlain underscores pieces like “Space Colonization,” “Orange Purple Sunshine” and “African Crowley” with his signature huge groove, while also providing a rainbow of colors throughout by thinking orchestrally from behind the kit with his sampling and looping skills. Haas’ melodious, fuzz inflected electric keyboard motifs (tweaked with Space Echo), alternately cascading and minimalist piano flourishes and deep dub bass-lines drives numbers like “Less Munitions,” “More Mentations” and “Cosmic Vision.” “Ancestral Availability” has Haas on piano and Moog bass going toe-to-toe with Chamberlain’s controlled bashing in a manner that might recall Cecil Taylor’s historic duet encounters with Max Roach. That adventurous, suite-like “Holding Deckard’s Hand” melds cascading piano against an eerie ambient backdrop and throbbing backbeats, while “Intelligence Intensification” opens like a revved-up rocker and closes like a kinetic outtake from Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach.