Pete Robbins: Waits & Measures (2006)
If Waits & Measures is anything to go by, Pete Robbins likes to subvert form. In a lot of hands this disc might have turned out as no more than a light fusion date, long on melody but so short on character as to be emaciated. In the hands of Robbins and his band, however, this programme doesn't readily give up its secrets, thanks to its subtleties. The listener is thus forced to concentrate, and it's always beneficial to indulge in that underrated pastime.
The two players who are crucial to the success of this music are keyboardist Eliat Krimsky and guitarist Mike Gamble. They have a knack (perhaps simply the product of their deep appreciation of Robbins' work) of colouring the music whilst also contributing in no small part to the subversion referred to above. On "Candy To The Crowd," what I take to be Krimsky's Fender Rhodes has a dry, clangourous quality which shares little in common with the kind of tinkling normally associated with that instrument, and such confounding of expectations raises this music above the norm.
Six of these nine tracks either don't reach or don't get much past the four-minute mark, however, and as Robbins seems quite meticulous and highly skilled in what I assume to be his arrangements, this lends the music a slightly restrained air. Given the fact that none of these musicians is a slouch, a more expansive and spontaneous approach might have resulted in a notably different ambience.
As it is, Robbins avoids the obvious, and that's a blessing in itself. Maybe next time he'll opt for an approach that strikes a better balance between formality and improvisation. As it is, the promise here could well be the promise of things to come.
Track Listing: Inkhead; Waits & Measures; Candy To The Crowd; Why Not Us?; There There; No One Cares About Your Dreams Unless You Dreamt About Them; Cankers And Medallions; Rodil; Amadelia.
Personnel: Pete Robbins: alto saxophone, clarinet; Sam Sadigursky: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Eliat Krimsky: Nord Electro, Fender Rhodes, glockenspiel; Mike Gamble: guitar; Thomas Morgan: bass; Dan Weiss: drums.