On this second go round with pianist & keyboardist Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneritheir 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.
Trapped; Interpret It Well; Mixed Metaphor; Morbid; Clear Major; I Need More; Deppart.
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