Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures

Both/And
Meta Records META 013

After spending nearly four decades investigating the rhythmic and sonic inter-relations among sounds from different cultures, New York percussionist Adam Rudolph has moved past creating so-called World music. His aim, mostly realized with this CD and in live performances by his ensembles, is something more profound: individual music, which doesn’t distort the foundation sounds on which it’s based.

This may appear easier to do than it is. Most so-called World music presented to Westerners is an electrified variant, closely allied to Rock and Pop, with only the vocals left in native languages. Thankfully avoiding vocals, the Chicago-born drummer, composer and arranger instead studs his pieces with ethnic sounds which organically relate to one another. On top of this, brief solos with Jazz and improvised music backing are interleaved among other musical layers. Refining his vision, Rudolph adapts the idiosyncratic rhythms and time-signatures of South Asian, Middle-Eastern and African musics in this suite. Yet such is the unity of his vision – not to mention his arranging skills – that nowhere on Both/And does it appear as if any intonation or beat is shoehorned into another.

With most of the musicians, except for the string players, trying their hands as percussionists alongside the panoply of beats from different percussion sources manipulated by Rudolph, Brahim Fribgane and Matt Kilmer, most of the 10 tracks pulsate to unrelenting rhythm. Percussion ostinatos and backbeats are omnipresent, with the tunes’ themes including everything from backwoods harmonica-like moans from Joseph Bowie’s trombone to flutter-tongued cornet work from Graham Haynes, plus primitivist, decidedly non-Bluegrass banjo clanks from Kenny Wessel. Furthermore the exotic string instruments in use during a few of the pieces quiver with metallic-sounding oscillations that elsewhere would come from electronic programming. At one juncture, a Jerome Harris’ bass guitar intro seems to replicate the bass pattern from Weather Report’s “Birdland”; while another piece, alive with shifting cross patterns suggests what would have happened had Miles Davis and Tito Puente pooled resources.

Since Rudolph is someone whose associates have included such major reed stylists as Pharoah Sanders, Sam Rivers and especially Yusef Lateef – who is saluted by name in the title of one tune – it’s not surprising that many of the tunes are arranged to feature the talents of reedist Ralph M. Jones, who has played with Rudolph since 1974. Throughout, the gentling intonation of Jones’s flute is used as counterpoint to the thicket of percussion, though Jones distinguishes himself on his other horns as well. The chalumeau rumble from his bass clarinet is used to good effect on “Dance Drama Part 2”, where its timbres are contrasted with guitar chording and string-section squeaks. And the reedist brings a taut and febrile texture to “Dance Drama Part 4”, which further emphasizes pedal-point djembe beats as well as some Rock-guitar-like flanges from the plectrumists plus broken-octave upturned grace notes from the two-man brass section.

Overall, Both/And proves that a mixture of distinct musical sources can create a memorable program. It can, that is, just as long as the compositions and arrangements are imaginative and skilled polymath players are involved: In other words a Rudolph-led ensemble.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Return of the Magnificent Spirits 2. Love’s Light 3. Tree Line (Call) 4. Blues in Orbit 5. Dance Drama Part 3 6. Dance Drama Part 2 7. Interiors (for Yusef) 8. Dance Drama Part 4 9. Tree Line (Response) 10. Both/And

Personnel: Graham Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn, bamboo trumpet and percussion); Joseph Bowie (trombone, organic/electronics, vocal, harmonica, congas, bamboo trumpet and percussion); Ralph M. Jones (hulusi, bass clarinet, alto and c Germanic flutes, soprano and tenor saxophones, bamboo trumpet and bamboo flutes); Kenny Wessel (electric and acoustic guitars and banjo); Brahim Fribgane (oud, cajon, bendir, tarija and percussion); Jerome Harris (acoustic bass guitar, slide guitar and vocal); Matt Kilmer (frame drums, kanjira, bata [okonkolo] and percussion); Adam Rudolph (hand drum set [kongos, djembe, tarija, zabumba] thumb piano, bata [itotele], mouth bow and percussion) plus Organic Orchestra Strings: Sarah Bernstein, Charles Burnham, Trina Basu Mark Chung, Elektra Kurtis, Skye Steele and Midori Yamamoto (violins); Stephanie Griffin, Jason Hwang (violas) and Greg Heffernan, Daniel Levin (cellos)