By Tom Burris
Because his tone is so rich – and his voice so varied – I’ve always wondered why he doesn’t do more duo work. (I’ve not heard any solo work from him. A discussion for another time, I suppose.) He is well matched with powerhouse vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, whose stereophonic overtones, sustain and sharp mallet stings connect and contradict in all the right ways. On paper this promises to be one helluva textural ride.
And while that expectation is definitely delivered, the big surprise here is the meshing of composition and improvisation into such completeness that it’s impossible to tell when composition ends and improvisation begins. Well… until the head repeats at the end of some of the pieces and you realize that the brilliant composition you’ve been listening to for the last two minutes was totally improvised. (Or was it?) The scope is varied throughout as well, running from East African melodicism on “Questioned, Understood, Possessed” to the bluesy old-school swing of the title track.
Several moments of transcendence include:
- Adasiewicz’s clanging tone clusters that resonate like a trolley filled with magic contrasting with Jackson’s supremely deep bass clarinet presence midway through “Where’s Mine.”
- “A Rose Heading,” a plaintive and gorgeous piece, is conventionally beautiful while steering clear of anything remotely maudlin. Adasiewicz joins Keefe’s bass clarinet to play the melody before levitating toward the stars over Keefe’s slow, drawn-out whole notes. If Adasiewicz plays the stars in a constellation, Jackson seems to look up and play the imaginary lines connecting them.
- The playful support Adasiewicz shows Jackson on “Questioned, Understood, Possessed” is fascinating. He throws sonic pillows at the ground underneath Jackson’s notes – to catch them if they fall (and they don’t). Jackson’s notes mostly float high above the ground, swirling and flapping broadly – until Adasiewicz tosses a pillow directly at one and Jackson bats it away masterfully. This happens several times.
- The theme from “Cannon from the Nothing Suite” is played “round” style with Jason and Keefe winding the melody around each other. Keefe drops a few really interesting notes and then bends & modulates them, heading back to East Africa on a rickety bus powered by vibraphone stardust. Adasiewicz then begins bowing the vibes, taking the bus into the sky & accelerating by pounding the metal with mallets.