How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Drummer Abbey Rader's compelling Reach for the Skies is a set of entirely improvised music that, nevertheless, follows an intricate and stimulating progression along certain unique motifs and ideas. The spontaneous orchestration flows freely and seamlessly thanks to the superlative musicianship of the quartet and the intuitive camaraderie among its members.
Rader's haunting cymbal vibrations and gentle crashes together with chiming carillon create a dramatic ambience on "Firs Bell." His darkly hued drums mixed with silent pauses usher in a Zen like serenity. Reedmen John McMinn
's evocatively groaning strings add a mystical edge. The mood is heavy with eastern spirituality especially as McMinn's agile flute floats over the clamoring percussion, Motl and Brandmark's (the latter on bass clarinet) hypnotic vamps. Motl's con arco duet with Brandmark's resonating woodwind evolves with a western classical bent and as the piece concludes the group sublimely balances the oriental and the occidental.
This type cohesive, telepathic anticipation of one another's moves is also present on the more intimate tunes as on the mellifluous "Beautiful Lady's Hands." Saxophones tenderly undulate over Motl's atmospheric reverberations and Rader's sparkling and thrumming beats. The horns weave their individual, forlorn solos loosely around each other in shimmering, melancholic poetry. The result is passionate, nostalgic and beautifully fragile.
After a fierier, tighter and more electrified second take of the title track each band member takes the spotlight for unaccompanied extemporizations. "It's A New Day" is a multifaceted, intriguing duet between McMinn and Brandmark. The melodic flow climaxes into delightfully atonal honks and squawks, followed by wistful, long notes and closing with a blustery and angular chant. "Kyle's Farewell" is pensive and ethereal as Motl constructs a stimulating and solemn narrative out of deceptively simple lines. One of the high points, however, of this uniformly impressive album is Rader's "Last Bell." It is an elegant, intricate and imaginative exploration of the harmonic possibilities of his instrument with a thrillingly contemplative touch.
The intrepid and unfettered spirit of the 1960s jazz is alive and thriving in the 21st century and works by the likes of Abbey Rader and his colleagues are the reason why.
Track Listing: Reach For the Skies I; Beautiful Lady’s Hands; Fading Light; First Bell;
Reach For the Skies II; It’s A New Day; Kyle’s Farewell; Last Bell.