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 SpaceTime: 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.