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After several recorded sessions with large ensembles, hand drumming honcho Adam Rudolph finds himself on a duet recording with Cuban pianist Omar Sosa. On Pictures of Soul the match works, revealing two gifted expressionists, masters of their instruments with the imaginations to go beyond their builders’ designs. Which is not to suggest a raucous blow fest; these free improvisers fearlessly weave beauty into the fabric of their play.
With Sosa inside the piano zinging strings, Rudolph lightly scatters beats and slides his signature drumhead moan. Sosa mulls a chord as Rudolph divides into three drummers, then both gently shape space. Sosa devises a sad, richly orchestrated melody. Rudolph answers Sosa’s reverent phrases on “The Call” with temple bells. Flourishes and accents from Rudolph dart around Sosa’s meditation. Rudolph mimics a rhythm section to open “Kachirumba,” and refuses to let up after Sosa joins him on prepared and unprepared piano. The prepared sequences add to the momentum the percussionist drives.
Sosa’s wistful intro to “Eye of the Blackbird” quickly finds Rudolph soaring on tin whistle. Playing prepared piano to excellent effect, Sosa creates just the right melody for “Dreams.” A tamboura effect anchors “The Wandering Night,” while framing Sosa’s powerful playing. Rudolph caresses the piano line, sharing the beat with Sosa’s left hand. Stark and unadorned, “Cuzco Refrain” has Rudolph tickling cymbals around Sosa’s unique tune. Rudolf runs to start “Trace of Burning Stars,” and under Sosa’s offtime riff, he cooks the skins.
Gongs and altered piano states announce “Green Silence.” Sampled Tibetan Monk chant rumbles under impressionistic piano and shimmering cymbals. Didjeridoo replaces monks and the questing piano takes it out. Appropriately somber, “Winter of the Flower” muses on minors with dramatic lighting from Rudolf. Near the end it nearly modulates to a major scale, then falls back to minors.
”Sweet Summer” comes with shakers and coloration chords evolving into a portentous tune. Rudolph’s brisk handwork gives the piece feet to run. Rudolph’s snappy runs goad Sosa’s toy piano tune on “Serenade for Two.” Thumb piano and prepared piano create “Kiss of Rain.” Harmonium and shakers set the mood for “Pilgrimage.” Finger bells, an unidentified horn, blocks, Fender Rhodes, and bass drums succeed in sketching a Himalayan hideaway.
The accent here is on the intimacy of empathy as charted by two very different musicians from different cultures mapping a similar path through music. Anyone still believing free improv equates with dissonance: bathe your ears in this spontaneous aural honey.
Track Listing: Portrait; The Call; Kachirumba; Eye of the Blackbird; Dreams; The Wandering Night; Cuzco Refrain; Intermezzo; Trace of Burning Stars; Green Silence; Winter of the Flower; Sweet Summer; Serenade for Two; Kiss of the Rain; Pilgrimage; Black Exit.
Personnel: Omar Sosa: piano; Adam Rudolph: percussion.