You are not likely to be hammered over the head about Abbey Rader’s once ubiquitous presence in clubs and other venues where the farthest reaches of improvised music gave way to withering horizons and the rising tide of music teased with mysticism. Rader, a truly great drummer, plays with the same intensity as Rashied Ali, Andrew Cyrille and Ed Blackwell, but with a rhythmic pulse propelling a voice of his own. Time and again, in one recording after another the drummer has proven that he is no hell-for-leather instrumentalist. Nevertheless he still raises the roof with an outpouring of lyricism and percussion colouring that seems to exceed the palette of almost every drummer playing today. Although he has been kept busy by club dates with his regular quartet including several illustrious invitees, in recent years, Abbey Rader has made his presence felt with a series of recordings that have shocked and delighted the aficionado of improvised music as never before.
Like any improvised music, neither the musicians nor the audience knows what they are getting into. But in the maddening asymmetry of Abbey Rader’s music luminous, compelling scores emerge. It is almost as if Rader is pursuing a light that is dancing ahead of him, just out of reach. With drums that ‘sing’ and ‘dance’ almost without pause and given the virtuosic percussion that is unleashed the art of drumming is raised to a rarefied realm. But Rader is never alone in his pursuit. Always surrounded with musicians of rare artistic genius much like himself, Rader’s music is possessed with a powerfully elemental undertow. This is especially true of his most recent work which seems to come in the form of an outpouring of almost endless melody couched in the beguiling delicacy of his percussion-led sonorities and the teasing air of mystery that ensues.
Peter Ponzol & Abbey Rader
ABRAY CD 0072-1
This is easily Abbey Rader’s most elaborate continuous duo structure to date. All the pieces are short. Continuities are of the kinds that bring film editing techniques to mind, with juxtapositioning and cross-cutting rather than blending or overlapping, but with a mysterious notion of relating invention to the principal idea. The startle factor is high. Expect spontaneity and, in the case of both drums and the saxophones and bass clarinet of Peter Ponzol, a gestural activity has been born out of improvisation, under the hands, with surfaces worked as a painter might. Variations of density and intensity are present, cheek by jowl, and an2 abundance of contrasts which take one by surprise more often than not, as the endings certainly do, arriving like shutdown. Expect also the myriad of drums to be treated as a metaphor for 1musical space, like a canvas. As one would expect, Rader is minded to be percussive rather than lyrical; that part is left to Ponzol. However there are frequent passages reaching high saturation levels of horizontal and vertical activity. Still there is no excess of volatility and the ‘extreme’ invention is accommodated effectively in a 2:22 frame – as in ‘Opposition’.
Abbey Rader Quartet with Kidd Jordan
ABRAY CD 0072-2
Abbey Rader’s and the magnificent saxophonist Kidd Jordan’s paths first crossed in New Orleans about fifteen years ago, when they shared the stage with Billy Bang and Frank Lowe. Although they resolved to play together this did not happen until 2012 and it took four years after that for the results of that session Reunion to be released. It is a fitting testament to the fact that some of the finest improvised music took place in sessions rarely documented or spoken of in almost any or all so-called ‘histories’ of improvised music. So much for the veracity of accounts of the documenting of music – certainly that of spontaneous improvisation. Powerful, propulsive rhythmic excursions by Rader and bassist Kyle Motl are held in check by brazen woodwinds from John McMinn (alto and soprano saxophones), Noah Brandmark (tenor saxophone) and the celebrated invitee, Kidd Jordan (tenor saxophone). Melodic variations on the saxophones are laid over the strong rhythmic foundation as heard on the three long, visceral tracks that fill the album. Throughout it’s a wonderful combination of chaos and control, aided by the edgy, raw nature of the performances The sheer harmonic magic of the saxophones intertwined with pulsating bass and drums is something breathtaking to behold.