Edward Ratliff: Those Moments Before (2010)
Multi-instrumentalist Edward Ratliff brings a wide tapestry of sounds to Those Moments Before. His inspiration comes from Henry Threadgill, a funeral march, the tango, and Hong Kong movies, and he has assembled a stellar cast of musicians to help realize his ambitious canvas. The portrait he presents is a dynamic, moving one.
Ratliff is comfortable in several zones and his music proves the point with instrumental virtuosity that underscores his artistry. One of the more intriguing tracks, "Kowloon Noir," is a homage to Hong Kong film maker Johnnie To and more particularly the movie, The Mission (1999). The theme is a tip to film noir with a dramatic undercurrent. Nate Radley on guitar and Ratliff on trumpet give the track a dark visage that is upped by the languorous lines of Michael Attias on alto saxophone and Beth Schenck on soprano saxophone. The spell is riveting and nails the feeling marvelously.
Ratliff's cinematic impulses continue with "Leon's Last Night" a tribute to filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai. The emotional strain is deeper with Ratliff showing a warm sensibility as he lays the tune open with poignancy . Attias is the perfect cohort, finding the pulse and extending it with fluid lyricism. Two directors with different approaches to their craft are saluted appropriately by Ratliff's vision.
Threadgill is served via "Good Question" by pianist Wes Matthews. Time is tempered by his unhurried pace, the cogent continuity getting a more emphatic presence when he injects a clutch of chords. It is a solo piece where Ratliff knows who can best tend to the idea and it works in spades.
Ratliff tangos in on "Well-Dressed and Elegant" the galvanizing touch provided by the memory of saxophonist Johnny Hodges. The beat gets into some straight-ahead rhythm without losing a tick. The music is sweet and mellow and vastly appealing.
Ratliff has conceived an intricate piece of work in the many manifestations he has succinctly put together.
Track Listing: Cafe Cortado; End of an Era; Minimus; Movin' On Over; Veloce; Good Question; Well-Dressed and Elegant; Leon's Last Night; Funeral March in the Style of Jean-Baptiste de Lully; March for a Lost Cause; Kowloon Noir; Pinhole Ghost.
Personnel: Edward Ratliff: accordion, cornet, trumpet, trombone, celeste, programming; Michael Attias: alto and baritone saxophones; Beth Schenck: alto and soprano saxophones; Doug Wieselman: eﻁ clarinet; Nate Radley: acoustic and electric guitar; Wes Matthews: piano and Hammond B3; Sean Conly: acoustic and electric bass; Take Toriyama: drums.