Monday, June 01, 2009

Turn Up the Bass

Reuben Radding with Scott R. Looney, Phillip Greenlief and Jen Baker @ Studio 1510, Oakland, CA
Friday, May 29, 2009

First set:
Scott R. Looney: piano
Reuben Radding: bass

Second set:
Phillip Greenlief: reeds
Jen Baker: trombone
Reuben Radding: bass

Duo improvisation is often a dialogue between players. Between Reuben Radding and Scott R. Looney it is an aural dance. With metal bowels, objects and wickedly playful intent inside the piano, Looney would dart off in one direction as Radding deftly kept up with his own extended techniques. Radding's percussive forays would then be echoed in the piano as the duo managed to aggressively explore without losing track of one another. Jagged, nearly cubist turns of texture and fluctuating densities added a sense of grace that reinforced the parallels to dance and movement. The final piece in the first set opened with a slow unfolding of rich harmonies played from the keyboard that left plenty of space for the resonant harmonics of the open strings on the bass with clothes pins affixed to nodal points. A beautiful interplay reinforced by the thoughtful ears of performer and audience.

The second set refocused the collaborative energy into a trio with wind instruments adding breath to the dexterity of improvised material. Radding altered his approach to match this changed dynamic. The sense of space and conversation is different with three players in the mix as individual parts become layers of a larger sonic image. The extended techniques of each performer adding a timbral depth that allows the layers to shift focal points often. At one moment Jen Baker's vocalizations blending and beating against the tone of her instrument in turn complimenting the soft, mouthpiece-free playing of Greenlief. At the next moment Greenlief weaving in the clipped calls of the alto mouthpiece as Baker and Radding respond in their own way.

The constant running through these two sets was the remarkable tension and sounding result of collaborative improvisation between unselfish improvisers. The openness to extended and individualized vocabularies within a responsive, contextually adaptive environment. The relaxed approach to a music that careens and threatens to unravel in any number of directions. Each thread weaving together along a ragged edge. Stringing together consecutive moments into an ad hoc conversation inviting to the ears and mind.

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