Barry Romberg (drums, percussion, electric percussion, synthesizer) is constantly looking for the new and unusual. The music that he evokes, and finds a voice with through his bands, has firm construction and heady improvisation. These two attributes are integral components, as is his sense of fun which adds immeasurably to the music. The Romberg catalogue includes four CDs with Random Access, the count beginning with Random Access 3
(Romhog Records, 2004). Where his band once consisted of three members, there are now 14 on Existential Detective
. As always, he has some of the best musicians in Canada playing along.
Romberg's compositions reflect his versatility. He is as much at ease writing compositional lines for a big band as he is letting the written line be the take-off point for unheralded adventure.
Whatever a "Harfingrinder" may be, the tune is a swinging affair. The initial impression is quite different, as Jason Logue squeezes some tight notes out of his trumpet. Kirk Macdonald changes all that by swinging unabashedly. Romberg's skills as an arranger jump to the fore as the pulse changes; the playing becoming looser, and the horns form an undulating backdrop. But while this is essentially a swing tune, symmetrical lines are as much a key to the development as are the intersecting horn lines.
The blues snakes its way through "Village." Guitarist Geoff Young is taut and coiled, but he never forsakes the roots of the melody. Romberg keeps the pulse open. His use of space is judicious, which he augments with vibrant accents off the snare drums.
"Hogwalk" shows how artfully Romberg blends idioms. The big band sound is adept and swinging, but he loops in some bop and slips in limber drumming that scatters form before carrying on a conversation with the horns. Macdonald and trumpeter Kevin Turcotte capture the imagination with their free-flowing ideas. Even as each finds his own muse, there is an evolution that ties all the strands together logically.
Romberg has given his large ensemble a convincing presence on their debut outing. Hopefully, he will use it as a springboard for more adventurous music.
Personnel: Barry Romberg: drums, percussion, electric percussion, synthesizer; Rich Brown: bass; Geoff Young: guitars; David Occhipinti: guitars; Kirk Macdonald: tenor and soprano saxophone; Kelly Jefferson: tenor and soprano saxophone, flute; John Johnson: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute; Peter Lutek: baritone saxophone, contra alto clarinet, pipes; Jason Logue: trumpet; Kevin Turcotte: trumpet; Brian O'Kane: trumpet; William Carn: trombone; Andrew Jones: trombone; Gord Meyers: bass trombone, trombone; Perry White: tenor saxophone; Scott Suttie: trombone, bass trombone.