Trumpet tornado Herb Robertson, a longtime mainstay on the New York Downtown and European improv scenes, has joined with Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez to launch Ruby Flower Records. The first bloom from this particular garden features Robertson in a trio with reed great Frank Gratkowski and French phenom Julien Petit, known for his featured soloist status with many prestigious European Orchestras, as well as being a favorite of Stockhausen himself. Recording as "Herb Robertson and the Space Cadets, they alert the listener that fun shouldn't have to yield to freedom.
Sketches From the Other Side, For A.I. draws on the trio's vast musical background to weave recognizable thematic threads through surprising performances. The longest of the ten tracks clocks in at under eight minutes, so these brief statements are indeed sketches, each made more potent by the brevity. The title track allows the members of the trio to gracefully circle and communicate through dialogue. With Gratkowski on bass clarinet and Petit on tenor, "A.I.'s Theme opens with a smoky elegant intro that flies apart only to coalesce at the end.
Gratkowski plays the bass clarinet bass line on "Blues for Ana Isabel, while Robertson uses an expressive mute and Petit phrases the tenor for jazz. The reeds breathe whispers behind Robertson's flexible tones on "Spectrum of Petals. Gratkowski rolls low fat bass clarinet notes when the cornet drops back with the sax. They invest the minimal closing arrangement with delicacy.
Geometric Entities brings more sharp corners into the playing; Petit's multiphonics launch Gratkowski's clarinet. With the tenor and contrabass clarinet rumbling low, Robertson plunger-mutes his way through "Strolling Through Deepness. "Coming to Terms features breathy extended techniques, while "Closing In expands those ideas to include a R&B-inspired baritone from Petit. That baritone line leads into "Construction Machinery, where Gratkowski joins on alto to create a backup for Robertson's imaginative rap. Jumping in on trumpet, Robertson keeps the riff going, then Gratkowski goes stratospheric.
The excellent audio separation gives each voice a clear presence. This is an auspicious debut for a label with its ears clearly in the right place.
Personnel: Herb Robertson: trumpet, cornet, lead vocals; Frank Gratkowski: alto sax, bass clarinet,
contrabass clarinet, clarinet, vocals; Julien Petit: tenor and baritone saxes, vocals.