Drummer Whit Dickey is a master at timekeeping without keeping time. His playing on Life Cycle
generally reflects a preference for color and pattern, leaving the pulse implied and understated. Of course, it must be made clear that this record is nominally credited to the Nommonsemble collective, a quartet of strong musical personalities. But Dickey composed the tunes and produced the record, so his fingerprints are all over Life Cycle.
The suite of tunes on this record draw from fundamental emotional frequencies, pieced together with a master organization in mind. But within this environment, each player gets a chance to participate in the process of development and transformation. "Games," for example, launches off with pure improv, each player contributing short phrases in pointillist fashion. As the piece develops, a pattern emerges and the piece ends up acquiring a playful, though occasionally tense, feel. Part of that tension comes from the open playing field, where a certain tug-of-war persists among these strong musical personalities. Pianist Matthew Shipp, for example, thrusts sparkling treble flurries into the mix about halfway through, daring the other players to step into the hailstorm and interact. A moment later, the lightning passes on and the group returns to its twisty democratic demeanor. A rise-and-fall tide of energy appears regularly throughout Life Cycle, particularly on pieces like "Love," where it integrates with a gentler whole.
Despite interspersed moments of high emotional density, most of this record reflects a certain kind of subtlety which implies more than it states. This kind of atmosphere is a perfect place for viola player Mat Maneri to perform his string calligraphy; or saxophonist Rob Brown to sail in the higher register. And Dickey is in his element here: rarely keeping time (though he does exactly that on "War," which emerges in military lock-step), preferring instead to lend an occasional accent or two and explore patterning through short repeated phrases. It's notable that this quartet lacks a bassist, which places more demands on its members, and allows them more freedom to perform an open give-and-take. With the talent on this record, it's nearly impossible to go wrongand Life Cycle ends up a victorious performance by four towering players. Compared to Dickey's debut as a leader, this disc (though nominally a collective, but influenced heavily by his ideas) stands head and shoulders above.
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Track Listing: Wonder; War; Games; Love; Acceptance; Transformation.
Personnel: Whit Dickey: drums; Rob Brown: alto sax, flute; Mat Maneri: viola; Matthew Shipp: piano.