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Milford Graves/Bill Laswell: Space / Time - Redemption

Dave Wayne By

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An unlikely duo, yet-somehow-also the perfect duo, electric bassist Bill Laswell and multi-percussionist Milford Graves generate all sorts of musical fire on Space -Time: Redemption. Once again, TUM Records' lush packaging includes numerous photos, copious liner notes, and some uncannily prescient poetry by longtime Laswell associate Umar Bin Hassan. One of the photos shows Graves adjusting his well-worn, hand-painted, single-headed drum kit as Laswell warms up in front of a small stack of amps with a dozen-plus effects pedals, loopers, and other electronic gadgets at his feet. A musical odd couple, perhaps, these guys are two of the deepest musical thinkers (and doers) of their time. Their collaboration, also documented on the digital-only release, The Stone (M.O.D. Communications, 2014), though lacking somewhat in timbral variety, is nothing less than fascinating.

Given both Graves' and Laswell's individual musical histories, one might expect a healthy dose of free improvisation. And there is plenty of that magical, spur-of-the-moment energy here. Surprisingly, there's also a palpable thread of tenderness running throughout the duo's music. Laswell, a supreme melodist, dips deeply into that well on the first track, "Eternal Signs." It's a welcome sign that Space—Time: Redemption is simply not another free improv jam session. Throughout the album, Laswell comes up with a number of surprisingly gentle melodic lines that waft in and out of the collective action like wisps of smoke from a hidden incense burner.

The energy, too, ebbs and flows within each piece but never subsumes the duo's remarkable cogency and penchant for deep listening. "Sonny Sharrock" starts out with a languid slide bass solo which gives way, after a brief drum flourish, to a gamelan-like melody played on a set of bells. During the ensuing improvisation, perhaps the most energetic of the album, Laswell refers to Graves' bell melody as he builds his sounds into a thrumming, pulsating mass. The bells reappear at the end of the tune, a ghostly out-chorus; perhaps noting the passing of piece's dedicatee and fellow musical giant. "Autopossession" is all Graves, though Laswell contributes a barely audible drone and some cello-sounding effects. Well into his 70s, "The Jazz Scientist" continues to play with the energy, spirit and flexibility of a much younger person.

The album's two lengthiest pieces, "Another Space" and "Another Time" follow different trajectories. The latter, essentially a feature for Graves' swirling, hypnotic percussion, coalesces slowly as Laswell weaves spectral bass harmonics and a mournful melody around Graves' meditative, circular drum and bell patterns. By comparison, "Another Space" has an almost jazz-like flavor, placing Laswell the improvisor front and center. He darts in and out of Graves' percussion sandstorm with surprising, odd-metered bass lines and intricate scalar runs that, for once, aren't obscured by vocals, guitars, keys, DJs and whatever else would normally be going on.

Track Listing

Eternal Signs; Sonny Sharrock; Another Space; Autopossession; Another time.

Personnel

Milford Graves: drums, percussion; Bill Laswell: basses, electronics.

Album information

Title: Space / Time - Redemption | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: TUM Records

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