Though Jazz remains one of the preeminent forms of improvised music in the West it's sometimes easy to forget that improvisation as an art form and musical technique actually far predates it. Numerous Non-Western cultures have incorporated improvisational techniques into their musical forms for thousands of years. Percussionist Adam Rudolph is dedicated to demonstrating and celebrating this fact. A look at his list of instruments on this date reveals the both the breadth and variation of his battery- fourteen different sound producing devices of varying shapes, sizes and sonorities. His cohort is similarly diversified in their respective arsenals. Calling their music Jazz deflects from the all-inclusiveness of both their influences and their creations and could be considered the worst kind of pigeon-holing.
Drake and Rudolph are usually at the group’s core and they show a bond that is decades deep. My first exposure to both players was through Fred Anderson’s The Missing Link (Nessa) and their collusion is just as tight here as it was there. At times they tap into a telepathic rapport that for me recalls the thrilling synergy of percussion teams like Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo. Jones and Ramos round out the group blending winds, reeds and strings over the rolling topography traversed by the drummers. Some pieces, such as the bustling “Ascent,” which is guided by a string-torquing solo from Ramos, are solidly groove-centered. Others like “Bardo” reference more esoteric fare. On “Light Upon Light” Drake’s trance inducing chant weaves with Jones’ flute above a shifting rhythmic surface of hand percussion. Jones’ flute also fuels “The Elders,” a calming thematic improvisation underscored by a resonating beat, and the nimbly negotiated “Jumpover.” All of the pieces contain absorbing collective improvisations and all are worth hearing. In addition, the careful and effective use of overdubbing adds significant dimensions to the group’s sound as each player is allowed to layer multiple instruments and rhythmic/harmonic lines.
Parallels could conceivably be drawn between Rudolph’s music and the genre commonly referred to as New Age, but these kinds of correlations inevitably fall criminally short of the mark. The sounds of Moving Pictures take heavy stock in the pleasures of improvised discourse and avoid the rut of sameness that seems to plague much of the music of that genre. Rudolph’s own Meta Records is the principal conduit for his projects and the other recordings on the label’s roster, assuming they are of the quality of this one, deserve to be heard.
Tracks:Black Cherry Lotus/ Bardo/ Abmilakelo/ Ascent/ Midnight/ Light Upon Light/ Spiral/ The Elders/ Nascence/ Mirto/ Primal Iridescence/ Emptiness and Form/ Jumpover/ Chandrikans.
Players:Adam Rudolph- Udu drum, hand drums, thumb piano, talking drum, bendir, Selya flute, balafon, brekete, tajida, naqqara, electric keyboards, gongs, cymbals, percussion; Ralph Jones- soprano & tenor saxophones, C and alto flutes; bass clarinet, bassoon, piano, shenai, ney, bamboo flutes; Hamid Drake- trap drums, vocal, def, tumba, bendir; Frederico Ramos- acoustic guitar, charango, ud, bamboo flutes; Oguri- dance.
Recorded: March 11 & 12, 1997.
Meta Records on the web: http://www.metarecords.com