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John Lindberg - Ruminations Upon Ives and Gottschalk

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Artist: John Lindberg

Album: Ruminations Upon Ives and Gottschalk

Label: Between the Lines

Review date: Jul. 31, 2003

Soothing Scintillations

Most tribute albums rely explicitly on the bodies of work of their dedicatees. While this can be a fitting way to recognize admired music, it’s a trend that almost seems like cheating when you think about it. Bassist/composer John Lindberg wisely opts out of such a crutch on Ruminations Upon Ives and Gottschalk, his second album for Franz Koglmann’s Between the Lines imprint. He invokes the spirits of the two modern classical deities delineated in the title as stylistic springboards, rather than revisiting their respective works to the letter. The result is a program of seven interlocking pieces that both play on the strengths of his assembled ensemble and succeed in sustaining creative homage to his stated influences.

Baikida Carrol alternates adroitly between trumpet and flugelhorn while Steve Gorn counts bansuri flute, clarinet and soprano saxophone amongst his chosen implements. Percussionist Susie Ibarra joins Lindberg in a rich confluence of rhythmic and harmonic ingenuity. The sleeve notes describe her palette as consisting of drums, percussion, kulintang (a Philippine Gamelan variant) and Chinese gongs. In reality, the various accoutrements of her multifarious kit move beyond these modest ascriptions and incorporate a host of shakers, scrapers and miscellaneous sound tools. Musically the quartet strikes a balance between propulsive energy and reflective calm. “Powerful Reflections” matches Lindberg’s teetering arco scribbles with the echoing metallics of Ibarra’s kulintang, the latter’s swiftly struck burnished surfaces taking on the relative resonance of boom bams. Carrol and Gorn stitch gliding counterpoint as Ibarra switches to lithely brushed snare.

The liturgical-sounding “Yatan-Na” builds from the cyclic braiding of Lindberg’s bouncing bow drones and Carrol’s somber bansuri lines. Carrol’s muted brass soon joins the game and Lindberg scabbards bow in favor of a loping ostinato groove tinged with noirish tonal paint. Completing the picture, Ibarra’s rolling brush rhythm supplies a light staccato forward momentum. This sort of ensemble aptitude at parsing down into component pairings adds substantially to the dynamic versatility from piece to piece. “Beau Theme” arises out of a delicate preface of organic percussion and malleted kulintang. Dirge-like flute, trumpet and arco bass enter, voicing sliding Oriental tones against Ibarra’s luminous rhythmic clusters. Lindberg later moves forward for a brilliant flamenco-style bass extemporization that emphatically states his virtuosity with bow and coarsely callused fingers. The whole piece takes on the cast of a waking dream draped in a canopy of ethereal intoxication.

Other pieces exercise greater economy in terms of length, but still touch upon mesmerizing arrays of textures and colors. Ibarra’s precocious sticks and Carrol’s eructative brass dominate “Generations,” while Gorn’s muezzin clarinet assumes center stage for “Implications.” Everything is rendered in a spotless sound that parallels the standard set by ECM, but without the cathedral-like austerity that so often plagues that label. Lindberg’s long been an improvisatory light deserving of a far broader and brighter beam in the public sphere. With luck, this disc will shine on a wider audience that his past work for Soul Note and translate into future conclaves for this stellar band. Ives and Gottschalk are almost certainly smiling down from their heavenly perches, pleased by the attention paid.

By Derek Taylor

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