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Tom Abbs and Frequency Response: Lost + Found

Lyn Horton By

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Tom Abbs and Frequency Response: Lost + Found Rarely does a recording's clarity of purpose come through in one listening, but bassist Tom Abbs and Frequency Response's Lost + Found fits the bill. The significance of this record originates in the brevity of each of bassist Abbs' eighteen pieces—lasting, on average, only slightly over three minutes, with the longest being six and the shortest about two.

The key to plugging into this album is recognizing that the major concern is the expression of one musical concept after another. A story is told; each track behaves as a chapter in its development. The basis for the entire design is tight, smart and so simple that it borders on the transcendental.

Not all the instruments play on every piece. Abbs himself changes instruments, choosing the bass, cello or tuba based on timbral considerations. He begins the album on bass, plucking a pizzicato that shapes a lullaby, continued expressively by violinist Jean Cook but quickly twisted and overrun by saxophonist's Brian Settles' mournful squealing ("Lost"). Mid-record, Abbs picks up the cello, and subsequently the tuba. The cello expands the stringency Cook's violin ("Parse," "Strung") or emphasizes the rhythm as if in a pattern of walking ("Pedestrian"). In the background, the tuba imitates the phrasing of the saxophone ("Bars," "Box") or extends its tonal breadth ("Cross"). With the bass, Abbs performs the same function ("Pedestrian").

Jumping from implying totally abstract ideas ("Static," "Suspect," "Parse") to making concrete references ("Lock," "Box," "Tightrope," "Cross"), the instruments posture themselves to portray meaningful metaphors which steer the imagination toward the visual, the emotional, or a state of being. Settles' articulation of the sax varies from reedy, quick arpeggios ("Strung," "Lost") to tempered discrete notes that construct melodic phrases ("Pedestrian," "Missing"). Absent from the bulk of the record, the violin re-enters towards the end to recall the poetry and anxiety of the transformation of being lost to being found ("Missing"). Generally, Chad Taylor's function as drummer is indispensable. His rapid kit combinations centered around the cymbals get the story going ("Torn"). He gives atmosphere to the sonic edginess of the sax ("Missing") and a slight edge to the preponderance of softness of the brass ("Cross").

"Reflection" summarizes, in two parts, the innocence of this recording. Backed by a regulating stick to snare edge clip, the flute and violin encapsulate a resurgence of lightheartedness, after the often tortured instrumental interpretation of the extremes between being "lost" and found." The second part reprises the theme from "Pedestrian;" the flute entering with a brightly skipping melody. A muffled verbal muttering ends the music.

The transitions from one track to anther are the brief silences between them. The bonding agent to the music is its consistency within variations. The music is intellectually oriented, but in a way that is satisfying rather than onerous. There is no indication that these brief pieces could go on indefinitely. In fact, they fulfill the idea of "just enough."

Track Listing: Lost; Static; Torn; Suspect; Lock; Tidal; Parse; Consolation; Bars; Box: Cross; Pin Top; Pedestrian; Strung; Tightrope; Missing; Found; Reflection.

Personnel: Tom Abbs: bass, cello, tuba; Brian Settles: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Jean Cook: violin; Chad Taylor: drums.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Engine Studios | Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


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