Adam Rudolph’s third recording with the Go:Organic Orchestra finds the master percussionist in collaboration with longtime friend and associate, jazz legend Yusef Lateef. The recording documents a performance at Venice’s Electric Lodge, a homebase for Rudolph. Uniting 22 of our town’s most interesting musicians including Emily Hay, Bennie Maupin, Sara Schoenbeck, Chris Heenan, Cory Wright, Alex Cline, and Harris Eisenstadt, In the Garden features performances from the entire orchestra as well as moving duets by Rudolph and Lateef. The two co-conspirators have evolved a compositional system so intimate they finish each other’s lines, and so flexible that Rudolph influences the players’ direction with hand gestures, his conducting more precisely sculpting. The collision of veteran cats with hungry young urbanites underlines an already vivid sense of ancient futures in the music.
The first disc opens with Munyungo Jackson’s marimbula sounding like a tenor kalimba. Lateef enters on bamboo flute, playing a brief invocation before the winds blow color and a rich drum pit yawns with percussionists lining up behind Jackson. After Ralph Jones performs some hichiriki hocus pocus with the horns, Rudolph stirs the pot with chant, setting up David Philipson’s ravishing bansuri solo. The track, “Little Tree,” ends abruptly. A slap on the drum starts “Nanna,” the first of the two Rudolph/Lateef duets. Lateef insinuates some ragged tenor sax tones between Rudolph’s surprisingly musical drum work. Lateef branches out farther and farther, eventually running into some sweet flute accents from the Orchestra.
An uneasy dream world unfolds on “Morphic Resonance,” with lush flute tones moving slowly and Eisenstadt’s brushwork running like small burning mammals. Maupin displays his mastery of the bass clarinet in conversation with Lateef’s flute and Karen Elaine Bakunin’s viola. Her austere tones offset nicely the giddy flutes. Smearing flute sounds open “Lobelia, Euphorbia, Rock,” with Maupin’s pensive musings setting the pace. A moody arrangement frames Maupin who perseveres through the lurching piece. Lateef blows small calls on tenor with a static orchestra broken open by the sizzling cymbals of Cline and Eisenstadt on “Trace Elements.” After the pace simmers down, Sara Schoenbeck emerges to duet with Lateef.
A searching flute trio of Ralph Burns, Emily Hay, and Ellen Burr circle and explore with hand drummers churning. Their growing intensity fuels the band and the bass clarinets work a nudging riff. Into the heated tumult that follows Chris Heenan shoots sparks and flares from his bass clarinet. Lateef whips a frenzied tenor through the terraced arrangement, unraveling it until his striking explorations with porous tone come lovingly adorned with concise flute and drum strokes.
The second disc pictures a caravan in motion with Lateef’s temple flute soaring over the tight percussion ensemble on “Amanita.” The driving rhythm continues with horns sounding like Balinese frog song, then Lateef takes over on flute, with imagination to spare and strong marimbula support. As a multilayered arrangement coalesces, Lateef takes a ride on tenor.
The three part suite “Formative Impulse” puts longtime Rudolph collaborator Ralph Jones in the conductor’s seat for part one, “Branch,” and he guides a light arrangement over Maupin’s heavy, evocative bass clarinet. The percussion section opens Pt. 2, “Rain,” like a pit of snakes, hisses and rattles. Paul Sherman’s oboe entwines Lateef’s flute, as the percussionists add color. Rudolph gives a glimpse of his sonic range before Lateef’s tenor joins him for their second duet on Part 3, “Seed.” Rudolph uses congas, djembe, and tarija as an orchestra in itself, Lateef blowing short dry cries through Rudolph’s hectic hand work. Orchestra members contribute small arranged accents through Lateef’s ever more engrossing saxophone creativity. Toward the end, wind players play only the sound of their keys which in unison sounds like a great clock.
The deep and mysterious ”Moisture Droplet” has Jones and Lateef on alto flutes, rising from a bass clarinet figure. Hand drummers and percussionists keep rhythm, while Eisenstadt starts and darts over cymbals. The mists part to reveal Schoenbeck playing economically on bassoon. Lateef lays down some crackling cruzaphone. “Chaotic Attractors” breeds from a loosely formed sketch into an ecstatic complex rite with Lateef playing Pan on tenor.
With In the Garden, Rudolph and Lateef have taken “multi-culti” to a level that transcends borders and arrives at a quintessential humanity through inclusion.