Guitarist Geoff Farina, founder of the seminal 1990s indie rock band Karate, has been slowly but surely woodshedding his collegiate jazz chops. Karate was a far more progressive, improvisational ensemble than its fellow emo brethren, and Farina's augmented jazz chording foreshadowed greater things to come. His simultaneous stint in the folksy Secret Stars provided him with an opportunity to stretch dynamically in an acoustic setting. These two sound worlds have yielded a far different crop of music than his early admirers could have foreseen.
Fast forward ten years and Farina now travels in the company of some of today's finest improvisers. Nate McBride, an erstwhile bassist for scene leader Ken Vandermark (Tripleplay, Spaceways, Inc., Bridge 61), and Luther Gray, a former Tsunami drummer and preferred sideman to avant-garde guitarist Joe Morris, share their talents with Farina on Almanac, Atavistic's fourth installment in its Out Trios series.
Together with guitarist Dan Littleton, Farina and Gray collaborated on 2004's New Salt (Xeng). That album's dark, feedback-drenched beauty is similarly expounded on here, but this date embodies a far more introspective feel.
Nate McBride bows resonant arco as often as he plucks out sinuous lines on the upright bass, providing the trio with a rich harmonic bed of textural sustain. Gray propels the group in fits and starts, rarely settling into standardized patterns or rote figures. Farina seems more subdued here than usual, eschewing excessive feedback and distortion for a nuanced, understated approach that's more concerned with subtle harmonic ingenuity than electric bombast.
There are moments of heightened intensity, like the shimmering aggression of "Steam Piracy." But more often than not, the trio settles into languorous rubato modes, with Farina caressing bluesy, lyrical refrains while McBride bows sumptuous arco melodies, as on "Sonic Gobo."
Each installment of the Out Trios series differs from the last, and Almanac is no exception to the rule.
Personnel: Geoff Farina: electric guitar; Luther Gray: drums; Nate McBride: acoustic bass.