Reuben Radding

Pine Ear Music PEM 001

By Ken Waxman

Firmly in the genre of jazz chamber music, Intersections shows off another facet of the prodigious skills of Seattle-born, New York-based bassist Reuben Radding. Someone whose past recordings usually find him involved in no-holds-barred improv with the likes of Seattle alto saxophonist Wally Shoup or Manhattan multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter, this CD exposes a less frenetic, but no less memorable side of his playing and composing skills.

Featuring six Radding originals, two group improvisations and the bassist’s arrangement of Olivier Messiaen’s “Dance of Fury – which hardly sounds wrathful – most pieces move at a pace between adagio and andante and are replete with enough silences to cast the circumspect textures in bolder relief.

With his cohorts vibraphonist Matt Moran, who plays in drummer John Hollenbeck’s bands and the Slavic Soul Party, plus clarinetist Oscar Noriega, who has been featured in bands led by reedist Assif Tsahar and pianist Sato Fujii among others, Intersections can be heard as an updating of two of jazz’s pre-eminent chamber ensembles of the 1950s and 1960s. Substitute a guitar for the clarinet and there’s the personnel as vibist Red Norvo’s trio; replace the drummer with guitarist or a pianist and clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre’s 3 is replicated.

While this may recital improv, this doesn’t mean that strength and roughness has been traded for weakness and static. For a start most of the patterned expositions rest on the thick pummeling and sul ponticello slices from Radding’s bull fiddle, not unlike Charles Mingus motivated the Norvo Three from the bottom. Furthermore when not sounding repeated motifs in well-space double counterpoint, the other instruments reveal atypical techniques.

“Siren”, for example, has Moran’s half-speed, ringing keys making common cause with focused, accordion-like squeals from the clarinet. The slightly quicker “Jasper’s Lies” features unpressurized obbligatos from Noriega and descending not patterns fro the vibist. And in “Marginal Way”, the fluttering, mid-range mellow textures are sabotaged with cavity reflecting timbres from the reed and rattling tam-tam-like rattling of Moran. If the Giuffre3 referenced a Debussy sonata, then the sparse dissonance of more modern composers affect the Radding 3.

Close cooperation is the key phrase. Most noticeable is the use of broken chords on “Making Certain It Goes On” and triple counterpoint on “North”. The contrapuntal coloring of the first is such that each resonated note is followed closely by an equally reverberated timbre from another instrument and then the third, culminating in Noriega’s chalumeau runs and Radding’s commanding percussiveness. The later interrupts he session’s usual lope to introduce buzzing near-electronic sounds – perhaps from Moran – that quickly form themselves into fluttering waveforms. With the bassist’s low-pitched tremolo actions providing the base, the harmonies seem only nodes apart as they work their way to adjacent polyphony.

Intersections proves that there can be as much drama and excitement in diminutive chamber improv as from boisterous arena or concert hall sounds.

In MusicWorks Issue #96