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Drummer Charles Rumback had not played with this particular quartet prior to the session that resulted in Cadillac Turns. This “first meeting” performance, like his previous two releases, was recorded live at the Chicago venue Constellation. It consists of four of Rumback’s compositions and pianist Stanley Cowell’s “Equipoise,” and superbly showcases Rumback’s artistic evolution.
Rumback has always maintained that his work is not meant for soloists. And here, too, it is the dynamic exchanges among band members that make for engaging improvisations. Thanks to Rumback’s deft leadership, the group navigates the complex and intriguing tunes with synergistic spontaneity.
The delightfully dissonant waltz “Too Toney” features alto saxophonist Greg Ward and pianist Jim Baker’s gentle sonic swirls lapping against the bassist James Singleton and Rumback’s ragged beats. The music flows seamlessly from Baker’s dense chords and contemplative, arpeggio-filled phrases to Singleton’s agile and lyrical lines. Rumback gives a haunting depth to the rhythmic backdrop with his muted colors and restrained passion. Over this vibrant ensemble sound, Ward’s muscular and melancholic saxophone soars in lithe circles.
A medley of two originals, “Salt Lines/Storybook Skyline,” demonstrates the crystallization of Rumback’s past musical ideas and the maturity of his style. The opening bittersweet undulations set a nocturnesque mood. Baker peppers his extemporizations with Eastern hints as his keys shimmer darkly. Ward’s alto muses eloquently, while Singleton bows with wistful introspection and Rumback’s kit expectantly rumbles and rustles. Gradually the piece transforms into a discordant yet complementary, combustible and overlapping stream-of-consciousness conversation. It concludes on a dramatically serene note
On Cadillac Turns, Rumback maintains the course he has set for his career. Simultaneously, he pushes the boundaries of his intrepid musicianship. His confident and brilliant explorations make this disc both innovative, familiar and highly enjoyable. — Hrayr Attarian
Featured photo by Dan Maksym.