Label: RareNoise Records, 2018
Personnel - Dave Liebman: tenor and soprano saxophones, flutes, piri, Fender Rhodes; Tatsuya Nakatani: drum kit, gongs, percussion; Adam Rudolph: handrumset, percussion, sintir, mbuti harp, overtone flutes, Fender Rhodes, electronics.
Prolific saxophonist/bandleader Dave Liebman, a living jazz legend and one of the most influential musicians and educators of our times, joins an imaginative duo of percussionists, Tatsuya Nakatani and Adam Rudolph. Together, they create a variety of spontaneous conversations where the reaction to stimulus is a must. Hence, communication plays an essential role throughout The Unknowable, the result of their experimental meeting.
The first and last tracks on the album are static and share the same title, “Benediction”. Both versions comprise uncanny electronics and a saxophone story recited over drones and additional atmospheric noises, yet, the opening variant adds far more percussive elements to the intriguing scenario. By the way, it was Rudolph who came up with the track titles in a post-recording phase.
“The Simple Truth” thrives with hand drumming forays, diverse metal collisions, and Liebman’s cartoonish sketches formed with brief stabs of notes on soprano. He often centers his playing in the rhythmic axis, but some melodic incursions are also discernible.
Echoing brisk phrases through a delay effect and resorting to heavy electronic manipulation, the title track is filled with tremors and high-pitched clamors let loose by Liebman’s spiraling soprano. While the posture is active here, it changes to passive on the following piece, “Skyway Dream”, where the rhythm is thoroughly marked and the flute notes hang in the air.
Hand drums and metal percussion become the dominant elements on “Transmutations”, which includes a panoply of grating sounds, clashes, and creaks. It ends up in a sort of African exultation that also can be felt on “Present Time”, although the pulse here almost touches the Brazilian samba. Commanding the tenor with an impressive sense of liberty, Liebman embarks on a more familiar language, inclining his sayings toward bebop zones. Yet, the crashingly noisy assaults in the background remain active until the end.
The saxophonist’s disposition shifts again on “Premonition”, which serves as a vehicle for his timbral explorations and extended techniques. This urgency of speech combined with fragmented rhythms takes us to free jazz territory.
Flirtations with non-Western music translate into a pair of nomadic pieces, “The Turning” and “Distant Twilight”. With self-restraint, the trio resorts to meditative phrases taken from exotic scales as well as simple yet catchy grooves meticulously designed by sintir or thumb piano.
Both Liebman and Rudolph play the Fender Rhodes in one tune each, searching for the enigmatic and the atmospheric. “Cosmogram”, unpleasantly piercing at first, is a good example of how a musical piece can sound simultaneously acrid and dulcet.
The record sounds quite distinctive from what Liebman has done before and defies any categorization beyond the experimental. Abstraction they fear not, and you’ll find the adventurous threesome attempting to squeeze their individual sounds into a compact, organic whole. In some ways, they succeed.
07 - The Turning ► 08 - Present Time ► 12 – Premonition