On August 22, RDL +, one of the Bay Area’s most prolific bands, will simultaneously release five CDs of music recorded during their four year-long residency at Oakland’s Studio Grand. Beginning in 2015, the residency resulted in five curated discs that contain a vast array of musical styles ranging from free jazz to Brazilian to classical, always maintaining an aesthetic stemming from traditional jazz. A compilation CD, Bay Area Bridges Compilation
, featuring tracks from all five albums, will be released in conjunction with the albums.
RDL+ is at its core a trio composed of pianist Ruthie Dineen, bassist Doug Lee, and guitarist Luis Salcedo. All three are also accomplished composers, each contributing songs written individually or with other members of the trio, to the five albums.
Even the individually written compositions, says Dineen, “though written by each of us on his or her own, were brought to our other two bandmates. We often gave each other ideas on how to make them stronger or more engaging. That generally came as we played them together, and often over time. The pieces rarely stayed stagnant. They moved and changed with time and through working with the other musicians. Truth is that we played enough together that we really know how to harness each of our strengths as musicians and to create space for each other to shine.”
The Bay Area Bridges residency was created to celebrate the Bay Area, with Oakland as its hub, bringing together some of the most interesting and ground-breaking voices on the scene. The shows included music written and presented by RDL+ as well as other innovative artists with the aim of breaking new ground in modern music. Included among those artists are vocalists Tiffany Austin and Aled Ordu; drummers Isaac Schwartz, Michael Pinkham, and Dillon Vado; and guitarists Michael Bang and Ryan Pate. Ensembles which performed throughout the series of shows included the Amaranth String Quartet and Berkeley Choro Ensemble, with other individual artists performing on such eclectic instruments as the Japanese Shakuhachi, West African/Ghanaian percussion, and flamenco guitar. RDL+ also tapped the talents of non-musical artists, such as theatrical director Mara Lockowandt and actor/director Rebecca Martin.
The five albums—Bullfighters, Impresarios, Even Delinquents; In Nature; High Hopes; Welcome to Way Out There
and Time Unmoored
—each focus on a particular genre or style of music and will be available on all digital platforms, while the compilation album will be also released on CD.
It’s difficult to select stand-out tracks from among the compilation’s 14 excellent selections. “Thanks,” from the band’s free jazz album Welcome to Way Out There
, was, says Lee, “…literally recorded on the spot. Michael Bang, our close friend and collaborator, produced the entire album and gave us direction on each piece—ideas from which we would then improvise.”
Guitarist Salcedo wrote the first six pieces on Bullfighters, Impresarios, Even Delinquents
, inspired by the group’s 2017 tour in Spain and the music of Andrés Segovia. The title track, along with his“ Double Edged Smile” and the lyrical “Dots,” are highlighted on the compilation. Dots” is a transcription of water dripping into a bucket, as can be heard in the syncopated melody,” says Salcedo. “Adding pitches, chords, structure and improvisation to the song was simply to support that organic, natural phenomenon."
Dineen composed the haunting “I Wanna Dance and Be Human,” for In Nature
, inspired by Octavia Butler’s novel Dawn
. “I love how Octavia explores what it means to be human, by thinking about what it could mean to not be human. Even though the book is science fiction, it is clearly rooted in the deepest of human values and thinking,” says Dineen. The piece was written to be sung acapella and with body percussion, but it developed into a mixture of free jazz, clapping, song, and deep exploration on all fronts.”
Two more tracks from In Nature
—“June” and “February,”—also appear on the compilation. Says Dineen,”They are part of the Months suite, in which each piece is in a different key and time signature, carrying the cyclical idea of time in months and music. It's a homage to the preludes of Bach and Chopin, which follow a similar format. Ultimately, the entire suite of months represents the feeling of a year passing, including the sentiments of the year unfolding. February is dark and brooding, mimicking the sound of the San Francisco foghorn, constant during that time of year. While June is uplifting and full of movement, as we begin to explore summer, whether in the sun or fog!"
Lee succinctly describes the group’s efforts, saying, “For me, RDL+ is a launch pad into the sonic universe—sometimes we stay close to home, but more often we find ourselves bravely exploring the outer unknown. None of it would be possible without the extraordinary skills of my fellow bandmates and our amazing guests.”