Farmers By Nature: Out Of This World’s Distortions (2011)
As the controlling mind of Farmers By Nature, drummer Gerald Cleaver appropriately pens the liners, explaining the democratic nature of the unit: fully improvising and a complete musical collective. It's a point further emphasized by the order of the musicians' names on the sleeve: Cleaver first, then bassist William Parker and finally pianist Craig Taborn. This isn't a piano trio with rhythm and the keyboard out front. The three parts are wholly equal. Out Of This World's Distortions forms the sophomore outing following their eponymous 2010 debut, also on AUM Fidelity. That initial release comprised an unadorned live set recorded at The Stone in New York City; by contrast, this time the trio convened in the studio to wax six standalone improvisations.
Ever since his tenure with pianist Cecil Taylor, Parker has been the preeminent exponent of the bass on the avant jazz scene. Cleaver and Taborn go back a long way, first hooking up as students in Detroit along with saxophonist James Carter, then later coming together with Parker under the aegis of AACM reedman Roscoe Mitchell. That joint history births an almost telepathic understanding, promoting exciting seat of the pants navigation and unfettered expression, safe in the knowledge that any unexpected turns will be spiritedly pursued. Their egalitarian outlook ensures ample space for each, arising in unforced natural progressions.
As with its predecessor, this disc acts as a wonderful showcase for Parker's skills as an improviser, an aspect of his playing that can paradoxically receive less emphasis in his own quartet. Whether belaying emotionally charged arco or purposeful assertive pizzicato thrum, he never ceases to engage. While Taborn shows an exquisite restraint, he also takes the opportunity to cut loose, locking into repeating patterns, betraying hip-hop influences, and sweeping keyboard glissandi. Some of the pianist's right hand lines are so disconnected that his stabbing chords and sparklingly articulated runs are like a fourth member of the band. Cleaver proves crisply incisive throughout, as likely to be tinkling shells and percussion as reveling in choppy polyrhythms, effortlessly rising to all the challenges thrown at him.
Together, across an almost 70-minute program, Farmers By Nature touches on a wide range of mood and genres. Recorded the day after the passing of Chicago elder statesman Fred Anderson, the understated elegiac opener makes a fitting tribute. The longest track at over 18 minutes, "Tait's Traced Traits" moves from knotty dense abstractions and back again, via an off kilter bluesy bounce, while "Cutting's Gait" starts in similar territory, only to unfurl into a breakneck, near funky, workout. After a buoyant bass/drum cadence, "Mud, Mapped" shifts into another driving tour-de-force, with Taborn well to the fore, before a lengthy cooling wind down for a low key finale to this great album.
Track Listing: For Fred Anderson; Tait's Traced Traits; Out Of This World's Distortions Grow Aspens And Other Beautiful Things; Sir Snacktray Speaks; Cutting's Gait; Mud, Mapped.
Personnel: Gerald Clever: drums; William Parker: bass; Craig Taborn: piano.
Record Label: AUM Fidelity