Acclaimed bassist John Lindberg's trio on Born In An Urban Ruin possesses a distinctive and deeply personal sound in keeping with the man himself. That's down to both the novel instrumentation with long time associate Kevin Norton mostly on vibes and Michigan native Wendell Harrison on clarinets, and the character of Lindberg's writing. The essential humanity inspiring each piece is revealed in Lindberg's liners, but reinforced by their warmth, memorable hooks and multi-threaded nature which sidestep the potential for chamber austerity.
Lindberg has developed into a virtuoso instrumentalist. He not only serves as a melodic foil when vibes or clarinet lead on his thematic matierial, but he also anchors the performances through growling vamps, like that in "Vermont Roadside Family," and embarks on fearless timbral adventure, as in his intense pizzicato workout crammed with bent tones, sliding notes, percussive thwacks and energetic strums in Part I of "The Left Wrist (For Roy Campbell in memoriam)."
Norton's bold vibes largely pick up harmonic duties when not coloring the ensembles, while Harrison's pure-toned clarinet lines follow rounded contours which avoid extended techniques. He's quick to switch between Bb and bass clarinet, even within a single number like "Devastation Of Vegetation" where he alternately soars on the former and mutters and hollers on the latter, thereby expanding the sonic palette.
There's lots of drama inherent in the arrangements, with counterpoint which promotes consonant interplay. At the core of the set stand three versions of "Swooping Deep," two bookending the program. The opening clarinet version acts as a summation of Harrison's approach. At over seven-minutes, the middle version provides the longest cut, its portentous theme heralding a mysterious but calming passage for the leader's arco and Harrison's bass clarinet. Lindberg's final rendition offers ringing overtones and visceral stomach rumbling depths for an invigorating conclusion.
Swooping Deep (clarinet version); Vermont Roadside Family; The Left Wrist (For Roy Campbell 9j memoriam) Part I; Part II; Part III; The Excavation; Swooping Deep; Devastation Of Vegetation; Born In An Urban Ruin; Swooping Deep (bass version).
John Lindberg: bass; Wendell Harrison: Bb clarinet and bass clarinet; Kevin Norton: vibes and percussion.