Dusted Reviews

Jack Wright, Tom Djll, Bhob Rainey, and Tim Feeney - Road Signs

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Jack Wright, Tom Djll, Bhob Rainey, and Tim Feeney

Album: Road Signs

Label: Soul On Rice

Review date: Jul. 10, 2006

That Jack Wright resides in Easton, Penn. (not particularly a hotbed of free jazz activity) is one of the more minor ways in which he’s moved against currents, forging a creative course that, before his eventual residence in the home of C(K)rayola, found Wright abandoning music for over 10 years as he worked first in academics, then home-grown leftist politics. When Wright began to play and perform in the late ’70s, he emerged from his hiatus to find his way trekking across the US and Europe, and his enthusiasm about playing and fostering creation in atypical venues and communities earned him a reputation as not only a great improviser, but also an antecedent of the modest explosion of free jazz and improvisation into the underground consciousness of the 1990s. An early touring partner from this new guard was Bhob Rainey, with whom Wright traveled and recorded in 2000. The pair have been frequent collaborators in the subsequent years, and Road Signs is the latest release to feature their work together.

To be fair, Road Signs is more appropriately a collaboration between Wright and Bay Area trumpeter Tom Djll, as they’re the core that appear on each track. Rainey’s soprano sax is featured on two live tracks from 2002, with another Bostonian, percussionist Tim Feeney, completing the trio on the disc’s second selection, from 2005. Not surprisingly, given the personnel involved, Road Signs is heavy on understated gestures and obtuse intersections, but there’s “uppercase” material in different spots on the recordings, a busyness that serves as an occasional agitation of the two trios’ more strangled sounds. Djll often speaks in fragmented splatter, though he’s not unable to interact successfully with the quieter segments of sustained minimalism, especially during “Sign 7” and its slow brew of an opening. There’s some rockiness to “Sign 6” and the beginning of the disc; the track opens with what seems to be a slightly disjointed conversation, with musicians on different pages, before settling into a more cohesive (and, perhaps not coincidentally, quieter) trajectory. In his appearance, Tim Feeney keeps his percussion simple, with bowed cymbals and other elongated sounds making up the bulk of his contribution, and Djll and Wright following suit.

Road Signs works consistently with silence, space and patience, though it’s lacking in the tenseness that can make this sort of improv so special. It seems that on albums of this ilk, the nature of the recording goes a long way in how powerful the final product can be, and too often, for reasons often rather intangible, a superb live performance can be rendered much less affecting on CD or vinyl. Whether this is due to the changes wrought in the transfer of “silence” from room to recording, or the obscuration of important nuance in the imperfect process of live sound documentation, Road Signs falls prey to this phenomenon. And while it’s not a wholly or objectively justifiable position, I aver that there was likely more to these performances than hit the tape (or, more likely, the minidisc). A great live set does not a great live release make, and Road Signs seems likely evidence of this postulate.

By Adam Strohm

Read More

View all articles by Adam Strohm

Find out more about Soul On Rice

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.