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Album Review

Ches Smith: Interpret It Well


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Ches Smith: Interpret It Well
A short list of the fellow travelers who New York drummer, vibraphonist & percussionist Ches Smith has journeyed alongside—Tim Berne, Kris Davis, John Zorn, Nels Cline, Mary Halvorson, David Torn—should give a hint to the many places he went with his latest experiment Interpret It Well.

On this second go round with pianist & keyboardist Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneri—their first was 2016's still vibrating, The Bell (ECM)—Smith deputizes the ubiquitous musings of guitarist Bill Frisell. Then, from the silent borders emerge seven skeletal, elliptical conversations which fall into focus, one minimalist, questing, voice at a time.

Prompted by Raymond Pettibon's mysteriously evocative cover art (a few thick black ink strokes evokes a familiar, yet questionable landscape) Taborn sets the course with "Trapped," an orbiting, patterned figure into which each player weaves and expands. Sequenced back to back as they are, "Interpret It Well" and "Mixed Metaphor" serve as the quixotic heart of the album. The placid surface of "Interpret It Well" soon gives way to a roiling, lava-like beast threatening to scorch and burn everything in its determined, yet unknowable path. Above Taborn's persistent agitation, Smith crashes maniacally as Frisell unleashes the furies.

Frisell then ushers "Mixed Metaphor" into the world all high and lonesome but a mystery, a shadow or something unknown rolls in on Maneri's bowing. On vibes for the track, Smith then goes toe to ringing toe with Taborn until, like shape-shifting cumulus, the quartet ride an extended vamp led by Maneri's razor-sharp, shamanic insistence.

A forceful suite powered by an interior rhythmic logic which reveals itself in real time, "Clear Major" is equal parts cacophony and calm. It lurches, it pulls, it transcends itself then returns to itself but never as it was. Interpret it well, indeed.

Track Listing

Trapped; Interpret It Well; Mixed Metaphor; Morbid; Clear Major; I Need More; Deppart.


Bill Frisell
guitar, electric
Additional Instrumentation

Ches Smith: vibraphone.

Album information

Title: Interpret It Well | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Pyroclastic Records

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