Percussionists Adam Rudolph and Hamid Drake, and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Ralph Miles Jones play together as the Karuna Trio. These spontaneous compositions were built on a deep foundation of shared experience, dating back to their teen years, for Rudolph and Drake; Rudolph and Jones later played together in the Eternal Wind quintet. The concept here is that the music they were making is from a fantastical place: an imaginary archipelago. Each of the eleven tracks is named for an island in the chain.
The sound is a potent blend of acoustic instruments with electronic processing, at once ancient and modern. In his role as composer/conductor of the Go: Organic Orchestraas heard to stunning effect on Ragmala: A Garden of Ragas (Meta Records, 2019)Rudolph shapes the music using the entire ensemble as his instrument. He does much the same thing here by processing and editing the raw materials of the trio's initial performance.
"Okomibo" opens the set with a spacey flute and percussion soundscape, with substantial processing on the flute part. "Alima" features bass clarinet, weaving melodies through a pointillistic landscape at first, then a regular rhythm. "Ibak" has a ritual feel, and finds Jones switching between flute and saxophone, processing turning the saxophone into an echoing chorus. "Pitek" is carried entirely by rolling percussion at first, joined by echoing saxophone, while "Chandirasa" makes extensive use of chimes, bells and gongs. "Suwakaba" must be a jazzy place, as it is inhabited by drum kit and saxophone. Voice is a strong presence in "Vajna," and "Sorokaba" closes with a gentle, contemplative mood.
The combination of hand percussion, horns and electronics strongly recalls the work of trumpeter Jon Hassell. Rudolph has worked with Hassell, notably on City: Works Of Fiction (All Saints, 1990 & 2014), but he brings his own sensibility to this music. In many ways it really does sound like World Music from a different world. And a rich, diverse sound sometimes belies the fact that it is all being created by just three musicians.
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