David k Freeman is the drummer/percussionist in pianist Steve Hudson's Outer Bridge Ensemble, which has released Outer Bridge (Self Published, 2005) and Seamless (Groovaholic Music, 2007).
Freeman's Citizen Orchestra Volume One continues the attitude of Hudson's group, which is to create music that is the merging of many styles. Freeman studies tabla, and narrows the stylistic merging, fusing jazz only with Indian music. The resulting sound is different in emphasis from that of Rudresh Mahanthappa, who not only has a direct cultural connection to India, but concentrates on the southern, Carnatic tradition.
What is immediately recognizable as an Indian influence is the use of a pedal or drone, rather than chord progressions that define a key and a tonal center defined by a scale, the structure of which imparts a feeling, much like a mode. The fact that sitar and tabla are part of the mix cements the feeling.
However, there is much going on that adds a definite Western identity to the music: Hudson's chords and the rhythmic structure of his phrases; the bowed lines of Paul Rucker's bass and cello; and Leena Gilbert's violin. Many times the drumming (as opposed to tabla) works against the Eastern rhythms and subdivisions, especially when reinforced by the bass. Thus, the music ends up being a real fusion, being simultaneously both and neither.
The group's instrumentation is interesting, being made up entirely of strings except for the drums and percussion. The combination of piano, bass or cello, violin, and Mustafa Bhagat's sitar creates an airy, floating feeling for the most part, with each instrument a separate thread. These threads come together to create density, or separate to thin things out. Hudson is very important in this regard as his chord formations and lines provide the foundation for the feel of the moment.
The pieces lie between the improvised and the composed. Structure is created by connecting freer sections with more formal ones which nevertheless maintain an improvisatory feel. Each piece works itself out in a different manner and creates its own mood within the framework of meditative, circular time, where the terms beginning and end tend to lose their meaning.
However, there is no drifting or rambling and nary a second of flab. Balance is always maintained and the feeling of stasis that the drone imparts is counteracted by the incisiveness of the players' lines.
The mix of the meditative and the dynamic can be intoxicating and it is easy to imagine the music of Citizen Orchestra having a spellbinding effect on a live audience.
Track Listing: The Prophecy; Opening Play; Ricochet; Shana Tova; Colloid; Solo Plan II; Cello Solo; Au go go; Solo Plan I; Forgiveness.
Personnel: Steve Hudson: piano; Paul Rucker: bass, cello; Leena Gilbert: violin; Mustafa Bhagat: sitar; Stephen Chopek: drums, percussion (2, 3, 7, 9); David Freeman: drums, percussion (1-6, 8-10).