Adam Rudolph/Ralph M. Jones

Merely a Traveler on the Cosmic Path
Meta Records 015

By Ken Waxman

Ranging through a program of 14 musical miniatures, playing almost double that number of sound makers, percussionist Adam Rudolph and reedist Ralph M. Jones prove conclusively that exotic themes and ethnic instruments can be legitimately used to create forthright improvisations.

Besides having the ambidextrous skills to negotiate the unique characteristics of this Ali Baba’s cave-full of membranophones, idiophones and aerophones, the two meld the instruments’ entrancing textures vividly because of their long-time familiarity with each other’s talents. Although this is only their second duo CD, the drummer and woodwind player have worked together for nearly 40 years. Besides improvising with elders such as reedist Yusef Lateef, Rudolph leads combos plus the mammoth Go: Organic Orchestra, with Jones a member of many of his ensembles. No world music poseurs, both men have studied Asian and African music for years, relating it to African-American improvisation.

The two are proficient on so-called conventional jazz instruments as well as you can note on “Illuminated”. Here Rudolph’s conga thumps and pumps play up African and South American inferences, while Jones not only complements the rhythms with saxophone honks but also with high-frequency piano key clipping. Elsewhere the saxophonist’s sputters and spews are almost circularly breathed on “Starlit” as the percussionist produces consistent rumbles and pops from a variety of drums. Turning to alien timbres and instruments, contrapuntal riffs from an echoing ney are matched with metallic clangs from gongs and a glockenspiel on “Rainbow Rivers of Skin”. Meanwhile a climax of juddering staccato tones is reached on “Wanderings” as Jones’ mysterious flute lines burst into taut vibrations while Rudolph’s sintar-paced Balkan rhythms are strengthened by pedal-point ostinato from a djembe and other percussion.

Both Rudolph and Jones are sophisticated enough to recognize that music continues to adapt new timbres. So percussion samples are used judiciously throughout, as are electronics, most noticeably on “Refracted Splendor” and “Spectrum”. While the latter mixes vibraharp-like plinks and plops with synthesized quivers, signal processing is more upfront on the former. As Jones’s low-pitched split tones illuminate the melody beside Rudolph’s irregular bell pings and drum beats, jittery electronic tones are simultaneously generated.

Tracks: Spirit Voices; Storytelling; Illuminated; Rainbow Rivers of Skin; Fragrance of Compassion; Ballad of Questions; Refracted Splendor; Spectrum; Calligraphic; Wanderings; Starlit; The Poetry of You; Those Who Know, Will Know; (Who is?) Love's Lover

Personnel: Adam Rudolph: hand drum set, kongos, djembe, tarijas, zabumba, thumb piano, cup gongs, gongs, kongo slit drum, glockenspiel, percussion and percussion samples, electronics and sinter; Ralph M. Jones: Aerophones: tenor & soprano saxophones, alto & c flutes, bass clarinet, ney, hulusi, umtshingo, bamboo flutes and piano

—For New York City Jazz Record October 2012