The cover of Those Moments Before features a poster of Marlene Dietrich advertising Josef von Sternberg's 1931 film Dishonored. While this albumNew York-based multi-instrumentalist Edward Ratliff's third as a leaderisn't a soundtrack like the earlier Barcelona in 48 Hours (Strudelmedia, 2004) was, this date unfolds with the same degree of wild eclecticism and globe-trotting impetuousness as a proverbial soundtrack album.
Joined by a stellar cast of Downtown improvisers, Ratliff has an unlimited palette of sound at his disposal. The woodwind trio of Michael Attias, Beth Schenck, and Doug Wieselman cover every pitch range from clarinet to baritone saxophone, while guitarist Nate Radley, bassist Sean Conly, and keyboardist Wes Matthews alternate between electric and acoustic instruments. Add to this arsenal Take Toriyama's drum kit and the leader's accordion, cornet, trumpet, trombone, celeste, and programming, and you have limitless sonic possibilities.
Ratliff's liner notes detail the endless cultural diversity he experiences while traveling through Manhattan by bike, and how it influences his writing. Such limitless potential does not always go hand in hand with compositional clarity however, and it is to Ratliff's credit that the album succeeds at maintaining a sense of cohesion, considering the number of genres invoked.
The record's nostalgic mix of waltzes, tangos, klezmer, funeral marches, noir ballads, and funk is endlessly entertainingand for the most partimpressively rendered. The lilting Old World waltz of "Cafe Cortado," the electrified funk of "Movin' On Over," and the zany klezmer jaunt "Veloce" are all infectiously ebullient. The somber dirge "Minimus" and the appropriately titled "Funeral March in the Style of Jean-Baptiste de Lully" are suitably melancholic. Only "Leon's Last Night," with its computerized synth washes and Milesian brass flourishes sounds at odds with the rest of the program.
Veering from one style to another, Those Moments Before presents Ratliff's chameleonic diversity in a wide-range of settings, yielding a cinematic ode to modern metropolitan living.
Cafe Cortado; End of an Era; Minimus; Movin' On Over; Veloce; Good
Question; Well-Dressed and Elegant; Leon's Last Night; Funeral March in
the Style of Jean-Baptiste de Lully; March for a Lost Cause; Kowloon
Noir; Pinhole Ghost.
Edward Ratliff: accordion, cornet, trumpet, trombone, celeste,
Michael Attias: alto and baritone saxophones; Beth Schenck: alto and
saxophones; Doug Wieselman: eﻁ clarinet; Nate Radley: acoustic and
guitar; Wes Matthews: piano and Hammond B3; Sean Conly: acoustic and
bass; Take Toriyama: drums.