With the provocative First Gathering, drummer Abbey Rader unveils an intriguingly new musical approach. Over the past decade or so Rader has consistently utilized two woodwinds on his recordings with saxophonists John McMinn and Noah Brandmark filling those roles on his last three sessions. Rader's current West Coast Quartet features reedmen Peter Kuhn and Drew Ceccato whose style is more expansive, rarified than McMinn and Brandmark's earthier, denser sound yet equally adventurous.
The record is organized in a progressive fashion with the earlier tracks serving as sort of etudes to the sublime fourth one. This is not to indicate that the first three are in any way incomplete or lacking in substance or structure. But they explore motifs later woven into the harmonic structure of the last tune.
The riotous "Foreign Dust" for instance features a delightful, ensemble cacophony of spontaneous expression. Kuhn's clear acerbic alto rushes over the stormy rhythms while Ceccato's baritone honks and howls like a squall. Likewise the saxophonists repeat their energetic duet, this time laced with bluesy hints during the joyous midpoint of the disc's closer.
The hypnotic, eastern flavored "Enduring Hand" is brightly hued with an expectant ambience and surprising serenity. Saxophones soars with palpable excitement over bassist Kyle Motl's agile reverberations and Rader's complex polyrhythms. This exquisite and dynamic group performance presages the ritualistic conclusion of the album's final centerpiece.
Motl's con-arco lines form a haunting lamentation on the contemplative "Inward Light." Kuhn and Ceccato wail wistfully in unison over Rader's evocative rumble. As Motl's bow grows more furious and Rader thunders Kuhn and Ceccato play intricate, angular and thrillingly dissonant phrases mirroring the intimate, sonic turmoil at the core of ""Realization to Truth."
Rader's booming drums and chiming percussion and Motl's chant like drone open the latter piece and set an organic and solemn ambience. Kuhn's passionate tenor and Ceccato's melodic alto float like ethereal hymns over a natural soundscape. A sacred feel permeates Kuhn's dramatic bass clarinet dialogue with Motl as Rader's breathtaking polyrhythms roar ceremoniously.
Ever the bold experimenter and consummate improviser, with First Gathering Rader has created his most spiritual work for sometime. Kuhn and Ceccato are as perfectly matched as McMinn and Brandmark were and they too share Rader's creative concept. An imaginative and artistic vision that Motl anchors and Rader propels to a new level with each consecutive release.
Foreign Dust; Inward Light; Enduring Mind; Realization To Truth.
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