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I must admit, I didn't consider Kevin Norton's latest entitled Time-Space Modulator to be a reference to L'szl' Moholy-Nagy's sculpture "Light-Space Modulator." Nope. I referenced the drummer's work with, and admiration for Anthony Braxton, and immediately connected this disc with Bugs Bunny's encounters with Marvin the Martian. I can even picture Braxton speaking with Marvin's voice and calling for "the P-53 time-space modulator."
But then I digress.
Norton, like Braxton (and Marvin) are partial to a highly intellectual approach to their craft. He has previously written about Situationalist founder Guy DeBord and activist Cathleen Chang. As a sideman he can be heard on numerous Braxton discs, playing Ghost Trance Music and with Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers, and on some favorite recordings of Phillip Johnston's Big Trouble.
The nice surprise here is the balance between complex constructions and free blowing. This live disc opens with the lengthy "Mother Tongue," a turbulent sea of a song with John Lindberg's bass riding above the maelstrom. Norton switches to mallets and his vibraphone, cymbals and bells for the group improvisation on "Seoul Soul." With Lindberg tapping his bow, the band maintains an interesting mix with just a minimal sound.
The tracks "Milt's Forward Looking Tradition" (for Milt Hinton), "Atie Aife," and "Difficulty" all flow together as if they are parts of one composition. "Milt's" plays off the heavy bass groove laid down as Norton's brush backs the horn lines. Both trumpeter Dave Ballou and saxophonist Tony Malaby are sympathetic partners in this undertaking, working their warmest of tones through their parts on these peaceful compositions. Norton chooses the vibraphone as his token of peace. They are reflective, beautiful tracks.
These tracks act as the meat between the sandwiched energy opener and closing tracks. With "Moonstruck" band goes out as it came in, on a wave of pulsing energy.
I can almost hear the curtain call... "Goodnight little rabbit."