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Reuben Radding - Fugitive Pieces

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Artist: Reuben Radding

Album: Fugitive Pieces

Label: Pine Ear Music

Review date: Jun. 15, 2006

Bassist Reuben Radding started receiving widespread (and altogether justified) acclaim following the release of Luminescence, his duo record with reed player Daniel Carter. Though hardly an oft-cited name, which is a downright shame, Radding is involved in a wide variety of projects – from the intensely acerbic Transit (with Jeff Arnal, Seth Misterka, and Nate Wooley) to trio recordings (with Matt Moran and Oscar Noriega, or with Carrie Shull and Tara Flandreau, for example) to duos (with Ursel Schlicht, among others) to his solo work. He has recently started up his own Pine Ear Music to document some of his many projects.

This quartet disc’s title is wonderfully apt, for there is a furtive quality to many of these pieces. Working at the intersection of European free improv expressionism and post-reductionist playing, Radding and his colleagues (Matt Bauder on tenor sax and clarinet, Andrew Drury on percussion, and Nate Wooley on trumpet) achieve a real sense of atmosphere. Specifically, it feels like wandering into a deep, woody hollow with vibrant moss glowing richly beneath a dark canopy of branches. Wooley and Bauder don’t play in anything resembling a linear fashion, instead drawing from a lexicon of coos, flutters, wheezes and moans. Similarly, Radding and Drury rarely use their instruments as rhythmic generators, choosing instead to rub or bow them as pure sound sources rather than functional devices. Taken together, the four create a gritty, earthen music that explores details and minutiae.

There’s also an evocatively alien quality to the music, like when Radding’s bass tolls like a bell and sends the horns scurrying for cover on “The Stone Carriers.” Some pieces, like “Phosphorus,” are more busy and skittery; they recall the Spontaneous Music Ensemble in one of its more exultant moments. But the burning embers of pieces like “Terra Nullius” (whose breath explorations and soft rubbings sound like the sighs of some unseen entity) are what bring me back to this disc. And this is an intense, incendiary quality that’s all over the half-hour finale, “The Gradual Instant.” Here, all the basic thematic elements of this group seem to coalesce in a way that seems slowly to render the music’s furtive, latent properties more manifest. Here’s hoping Radding's label serves to bring his music to wider attention, for on the strength of this excellent recording it's just the ticket for improv junkies.

By Jason Bivins

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