Label: RareNoise, 2018
Personnel – Bobby Previte: drums, percussion, autoharp, guitar, harmonica; Fabian Rucker: alto saxophone; Nels Cline: acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, slide guitar; Zeena Parkins: harp; John Medeski: piano; Jen Shyu: vocals.
Taking into account the outstanding rhythmic skills of American drummer Bobby Previte, it came to no surprise that his new album, Rhapsody, reveals a tour-de-force storytelling that takes us into an uninterrupted journey of musical discovery while addressing pertinent subjects such as transit and migration in the current days.
The second installment of his Terminals Trilogy features an all-star acoustic sextet that includes Fabian Rucker on alto saxophone, Nels Cline on acoustic guitars, Zeena Parkins on harp, John Medeski on piano, and the one-and-only Jen Shyu on vocals.
The drummer, who described his first experience as a lyricist as terrifying, was pretty successful in this particular endeavor. The narration takes immediate effect on the opening piece, “Casting Off”, where the voice of Shyu merges with the saxophone in a robust unison. Piano and guitar arpeggios are combined with a saxophone ostinato and the tuneful erhu, a two-string fiddle from China, creating a serene, mysterious, and theatrical chamber work, later adorned with revolutionary harp sweeps.
“All the World” is an incredible shape-shifting avant-prog exercise with world music connotations. The thrilling discharges from Rucker’s horn, having the magnificence of Previte’s drum chops working incessantly in the background, feels empowering, while the guitar fingerstyle moved by Cline has the perfect company in Medeski’s relentless piano ostinato. The seamlessness in tempo slowly guides us to the end, where the saxophonist strikes again with his raucous multiphonic technique.
Perfectly mirroring what the title announces, “The Lost” exposes the band creating multiple disorienting effects that lead to moments of sheer musing. It starts with prepared piano, guitar pointillism, and percussive creativity, including metal scraping sounds and dragging rattles. The tune gains a tactile soul through swift harp movements and timely piano strokes.
If “When I Land” feels like a medieval song as it embraces the emotional chant of the troubadour, “The Timekeeper” evokes classical music in its intro, only to fall into an idolatrous dance pervaded by an attractive ethnic fusion that bridges the ancient and the modern.
Undoubtedly a highlight, “All Hands” is a progressive folk-rock piece filled with fabulous slide guitar and epic acoustic power chords. Can you imagine Metallica playing a sort of mystical acoustic concert? There you are! Then, you can add the to-die-for vocalizations by Shyu, properly backed by saxophone, and to finalize, a neo-folk dissertation by Cline, who genially brings a dash of flamenco into play.
On this album, Previte’s actions are not limited to percussion. He plays guitar on the tune described above as well as autoharp and harmonica on “Last Stand/Final Approach”, a piece that also thrives with blistering saxophone improvisations.
Boasting a stupendous sound and concept, as well as an unconventional repertoire of converging influences and metaphors, this is a masterwork by a fearless musician who never ceases to innovate.
02 - All The World ► 07 - All Hands ► 08 – Last Stand/Final Approach