Simon Nabatov-Tom Rainey

Steady Now
Leo CD LR 463

Reducing their 15-year association in larger groups to its essence, Russian-American pianist Simon Nabatov and American drummer Tom Rainey combine for this nine-track recital, which skirts keyboard glibness to exhilarate.

Prodigiously educated, Nabatov so dominates his instrument – which here is extended with preparations and primitive electronics – that it’s often difficult for him to hold back. Considering he’s held his own with heavy hitters like German trombonist Nils Wogram and Dutch drummer Han Bennink that’s no surprise. Resonating note clusters, slinky vamps and contrapuntal passing chords ooze from his fingers along with key clipping, basso explorations plus struck and strummed internal string patterns. On “Não Olhe Para Trás”, a quasi bossa nova for instance, he affixes stride variations and atonal contrasting dynamics onto the Latinesque theme. Elsewhere he references Romantic Era crescendos, Monkish note-bending and pumping ragtime lines – sometimes on the same track.

Accomplished back-up for saxophonist Tim Berne and bassist Mark Helias, Rainey’s the perfect foil. Actively rumbling, striking, slapping and bouncing his foreshortened beats, contrapuntally he encourages the pianist, yet simultaneously restrains him.

Listed at 6:14, but really more than 14 minutes long, “Fare Well” is the CD’s high point. After Nabatov organizes a smattering of slower phrases into a vibrating near- bluesy line, he spends time unraveling the repetitive theme. Following a one-minute pause, as Rainey sounds bongo-like rhythms, the pianist deconstructs the exposition with flashing tremolo passages, scrambling from fortissimo runs to rickety-tick slaps until the tune quietly evaporates.

— Ken Waxman

— CODA Issue 330