Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balazs Pandi - Strength and Power (Rarenoise Records, 2016)

It is hard to believe that this is a collectively improvised album, because everything on it is so taught and well connected. The four musicians on this album, Roswell Rudd on trombone, Jamie Saft on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass and Balazs Pandi on drums entered the studio with no preconceived notions of what music they would create, and relied on their wits and talent to weave fascinating music where nothing had existed before. The focus may be on Rudd, who’s lengthy career has stretched from playing the innermost Dixieland jazz to the outermost free jazz, but Saft and Dunn have long played their own original music and performed on many projects for the Tzadik label, while Pandi is a percussionist with experience in music as diverse as free jazz, noise rock and metal. The massive slab of music “Strength & Power” is true to form with storming drumming from Pandi igniting the music, and Rudd even sneaking in an Albert Ayler like snippet of “John Brown’s Body” during the midsection of the piece. This and the other very long form performance “Cobalt is a Divine” have excellent dynamic shifts of tone and balance, from Rudd’s growling caterwauls at the beginning of “Cobalt” with it’s rolling piano and drum accompaniment that becomes more manic as the piece proceeds. “The Bedroom” gets a wildly propulsive percussion and bass opening to launch Rudd out of the gate like a rocket, powering his way forward as splinters of piano (inside and out) fall by the wayside, and it is an absolute blast to listen to, free jazz at a rock ‘n’ roll tempo, volume and attitude. “Luminescent” is more spacious, with the group patiently letting the music grow organically. Gentle piano and bass and subtle percussion are a fine backdrop for Rudd’s spare lines of trombone. The bassist is the center of “Dunn’s Falls” with his stoic and proud playing and Saft’s piano experimentation making things very interesting, and he remains the pivot point throughout, even when Rudd enters to punch and smear his delicious tone aided by Pandi’s occasional rapid fire burst. “Struttin’ For Jah Jah” is a very tight group conversation with everyone in top form, and playing from a deep well of strength. Everyone is encouraging each other on, and the music gets even deeper, with Saft driving the piano even harder, and Rudd sending squalls of sound over the top of it. Jamie Saft said of this recording session, “All the music was completely improvised in the studio. No predetermined compositions at all. No hand signals, no charts: nothing but trust, deepest intuition, and mutual respect.” This is exactly what they achieved from start to finish. This is state of the art free jazz, and very highly recommended. Strength & Power - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.