Barry Romberg's Random Access: The Gods Must Be Smiling (2010)
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Over the last 10 years, Random Access has seen changes in its lineup. The concept of the band came from drummer Barry Romberg, who began with home experiments in 2001. His object was to play music spontaneously and, with that idea in mind, the first incarnation of the band came into being. The seven-piece unit consisted of two guitars, trumpet, saxophone, bass, drums and percussion, though the guitars and percussion were eliminated when the group pared down to a quartet. Romberg has also taken the outfit into a purely acoustic realm and, to complete the pictureat least at this stageretains the 14-piece Random Access Large Ensemble.
For The Gods Must Be Smiling, Romberg returns to a foursome, going into the studio without expectations to lay down all of the music in three hours. While doing some minimal editing, Romberg was struck by a bolt of inspiration; consequently, he overdubbed saxophonists Kirk MacDonald and Kelly Jefferson.
Romberg, guitarist Geoff Young and bassist Richard Rabbit Brown have long been the core of the band, with keyboardist Robi Botos adding expanse to this date. As it turns out, this ninth album in the canon of Random Access is another firecracker.
Romberg has always been astute at setting pace and rhythm, letting that seep into the pulse of a composition as he lays the ground for the others to take off. "1st Things First" has a slow percussive flow, on which Young builds; in constant search of the lost chord, he finds it in many startling ways. He keens far from expectation, enveloping development in rock or illuminatingly light phrases. He presages the heat that infiltrates the music and, with Botos kicking in the funk along with a surge on the drums, the elements of change are intriguing.
"A Christmas Song" is the freest tune on the record. Jefferson yowls, Young lets loose some flinty riffs, the beat is hard, and a plethora of sensibilities float in and out. And, as they find their muse on a song that may never represent the spirit of yuletide, they go on to "The Gods Must Be Smiling," which has a greater possibility of living up to its name. Jefferson's tender approach is underlined by the caress of the keyboards and the softness of the beat, in a communion of the soulthat is, until they break free of symmetrical fetters. Freedom is juxtaposed into the frame in quirky comeuppance, nailing the way of the band in crafting the unusual.
The other tunes have their allure secure in stylistic tangents that go to show the kinetic, and energizing, spirit of Random Access.
Track Listing: !st Things First; A Christmas Song; The Gods Must Be Smiling; Lowell's Bowel: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Epilogue.
Personnel: Barry Romberg: drums; Geoff Young: guitars; Rich Brown: bass; Robi Botos: keys; Kirk Macdonald: saxophone (4, 5); Kelly Jefferson: saxophone (2, 3).
Record Label: Romhog Records
Style: Modern Jazz