Wadada Leo Smith/Oliver Lake/Adam Rudolph
On a sunny Saturday Spring afternoon, Venice's Electric Lodge housed the sonic sunlight of percussion pontiff Adam Rudolph and two old friends, Oliver Lake and Wadada Leo Smith. Leo and Lake have played together since the '70's, as the recently reissued Song Of Humanity session beautifully demonstrates. No less power with added depth of experience, the veteran players drew on infinite lexicons in their conversations with eachother and Rudolph. The imaginative skinsman painted accents and ornaments with bells and cymbals, other times dropping irresistible rhythms into the mix, bringing it back to the dance. As often happens with musicians playing multi use venues, the band performed in a set for a theatrical staging. Given the tiro's deep rapport, it seemed synchronistic they played an archetypal early 20th century living room, with plates on the walls, horns, wood flutes and conch shell, alto and curved soprano on the dining room table, and Rudolph's percussion world set up in front of the fire place.
Smith and Lake opened with long tones that fractured, Rudolph bowed bells. The multiphonics focused into roaring clarity. The reed and brass traded phrases, until Lake took off with a simmering flurry of ideas. Rudolph moaned on conga, then lit into his handrumset, birthing a rhythm Lake seemed to love, judging by the rough toned run he took. Smith played drone tones on conch shell, then following Lake's scorch, he rode Rudolph's rhythm on trumpet. Lake struck with soul lightning and Smith returned a few bolts of his own before that sequence ended.
Lake worked a jagged line that altered and quit to start the next performance. Rudolph took over with a vibrant segment on the handrumset, and Lake resumed playing colorful passionate lines. When Smith joined them, first Lake broke, then Rudolph, leaving Smith solo, always a rich vein for him to mine. His exquisite soliloquy deuced when Lake flicked his alto's keys percussively. Rudolph reentered, with Lake on soprano. First seasoning with gongs, Adam added drums to a Smith and Lake blowfest. Smith muted, then Rudolph brings vocal percussion and drone, the latter Lake picks up on alto, swiveling back and forth nearly 180*.
Back on conch, Smith joined Rudolph's singing skins, before the latter switched to a large Haitian flute, called vaccine. Smith played softly on bamboo flute, Rudolph offered wood flutes, and Lake recited a moving poem that repeated, "I exist like a sea of clouds." Smith had a solid workout on flugelhorn, as Lake played future blues.
After a brief intermission, Smith reopened the proceedings muted. As Rudolf hit the frame drum, Lake played a romantic interlude, that quickly built intensity with Smith urging it on. The trio ran its paces, Lake supporting Smith's exposition. Rudolph maintained a furious beat as Lake and Smith flew.
Three segments followed giving each a musician a solo shot. Lake began mixing the sweet with the spicy, and in the process demonstrating the range of possibilities the alto presents, never far from the blues. Returning to spoken word, Lake recited an improviser's anthem, "What can I do...in the field of all possibilities?" Next, Rudolph turned the ignition on his rhythm machine, going beyond physical endurance into his unique melodic inflections. Smith closed it with a pensive muted solo.
The final piece had the multi-instrumentalists deftly moving from horn to horn and gong to drum, creating a dizzying display of dexterous versatility. With Smith keeping close watch on his watch, the trio played a "one minute encore," pulling all the stops for the brief finale.
As he has before, Rudolph used the excellent sound of the Lodge to record the event, a cd possibly to be released on his own Meta Label. Rudolph returns to the Lodge with Bennie Maupin and the GO Organic Orchestra June 3 &4.
Visit the Electric Lodge on the web at www.electriclodge.org .