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Steve Baczkowski / Ravi Padmanabha - Tongue Rust and Lead Moth

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Artist: Steve Baczkowski / Ravi Padmanabha

Album: Tongue Rust and Lead Moth

Label: Utech

Review date: Jun. 3, 2006

The finest preacher I ever heard began by speaking so softly, almost meekly, that I wasn’t even sure I had his vocation right. At some point, I realized that he was screaming, and that the ascent had been so beautifully controlled that I never noticed it.

I have been left with this impression many times throughout this sax-and-percussion set. Steve Baczkowski first came to my attention through a scorching live date with Paul Flaherty; he sparred tremendously with the elder player, complementing Flaherty’s l arsenal with inventiveness and timbral surprise. I then heard Suicide Prevention Unit’s debut, a group that employs both Baczkowski and Ravi Padmanabha, and that disc increased my admiration for Baczkowski’s reedwork and showed Padmanabha to be an equally exciting player.

Tongue Rust and Lead Moth is the work of two communicative improvisers unafraid to incorporate elements from all over jazz’s historical spectrum. Just for a taste, check out the opening moments of “Moth”; Padmanabha’s swinging cymbals and fat-back snare – so old-time, almost rhythm-and-blues with just that touch of off-tempo post-modern hipness – are eventually joined by an equally slinky riff from Baczkowski. It’s repeated, tweaked and drawn out, pretty but strident.

This is the kind of interplay so often evident throughout the disc. We’re neither given an Interstellar Space, where I get the impression that Trane and Ali play against rather than around each other, nor is this so much like Evan Parker and Eddie Prevost’s collaborations, which can be intensely intimate. In fact, the duo dwells in both camps, straddling the line from moment to moment without any pretense and often with stunningly cohesive results. They bob and weave around each other, trade licks where necessary while each presents a very convincingly independent narrative. Of course, a disc like this has passages that don’t work, but these are forgivable in light of what has been accomplished. Group work has clearly done this duo good, and I’m impatient for more.

By Marc Medwin

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