Exploring the Vibe is the dynamic follow-up to This is R Time (Ropeadope, 2009), the critically acclaimed debut of R*Time, a mutable ensemble led by Israeli-born trombonist Reut Regev. A versatile instrumentalist, Regev has been involved in a number of eclectic projects since moving to New York City in 1998, including musical experiments in Radical Jewish Culture with Frank London, as well as contributing to the avant-garde excursions of composer Anthony Braxton. Regev's defiance of stylistic limitations carries over into her work as a bandleader, guiding her flagship group through striking juxtapositions of free jazz, rock, funk, and blues that yield an unclassifiable but distinctly modern hybrid.
Although the basic instrumentation remains the same, only the core duo of Regev and her husband, drummer Igal Foni, returns from the previous session. For this date, bassist Mark E. Peterson fills in for Brad Jones, while acclaimed guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly replaces David Phelps. This significant change in personnel dramatically alters the proceedings; though Exploring the Vibe navigates similar terrain as its predecessor, it often regales with an even more visceral intensity, due in part to Bourelly's shredding fretwork.
R*Time's futuristic tribalism resists simple categorization, encompassing aspects from a wide variety of genres. Folksy acoustic interludes, such as "Ilha Bela," offer brief sonic respite, although amplified tunes like "Raw Way" are far more prevalent. The latter number, an episodic blues, incrementally builds from hushed pointillism to a thrashing metallic finale that seethes with coruscating detail, subtly invoking a plethora of historical antecedents along the way. The beguiling "Montenegro" pushes even further into vanguard territory, culminating in a surreal climax that frames Bourelly's blistering arpeggios alongside Regev's lilting, Hassidic-themed fanfares.
Regev's erudite playing evokes numerous facets of the trombone's venerable history, from the supple march refrains of "Blue Llamas" to the swaggering, funky lyricism that dominates "Madeleine Forever." The festive opener, "Drama Maybe Drama," finds the trombonist plugged into a battery of EFX that emulate the distinctive oscillating patterns of turntable scratching. Her creative use of electronics parallels Bourelly's fondness for heavily processed guitar tones, but it is their virtuosic rapport that is the album's most salient detailan aspect reinforced by Peterson and Foni's adroit interplay.
Emboldened by her bandmates sterling performances, Regev's R*Time delivers an outstanding sophomore set; the only slight misstep is Bourelly's singing on two songs, which sounds almost prosaic compared to the band's kaleidoscopic inventions. Nonetheless, Exploring the Vibe is a compelling record from a talented musician on the rise.
Drama Maybe Drama; Breaking the Silence; Montenegro; Ilha Bela; Madeleine Forever;
Llamas; Hashed In; Great Pretender; Ok Oj; Raw Way; New Beginning.
Reut Regev: trombone (1-9, 11), flugabone (10), piano (3), slide trumpet (3), frula flute
bata drum (6); Jean-Paul Bourelly: guitar, vocals (7, 8, 11), percussion (6, 8); Mark
electric bass (1, 2, 5, 10), acoustic bass (3, 4, 6-9, 11), digeridoo (6); Igal Foni: drums
(1-6, 8-11), prepared piano (4, 7), cajon (6), toy megaphone and shortwave radio (11);
Johnson: drums (6); Jon Sass: tuba (11).