Acoustic Reign Project - ACOUSTIC REIGN PROJECT
Not a lot of liner notes, but I can tell you, the opener ("Depths") is a killer... a 19 minute free-jazz epic, it features some high talent from the Great Northwest... Jim Knodle on trumpet, Brian Kent on tenor sax, Reuben Radding on bass & Jack Gold on drums. Seems (to me) to be a lot of "talk/response" play between Knodle and Kent, with heavy bass and drum as a framework for the horns to talk & dance against. The recording is superb, capturing ev'ry little moment/note. Some listeners will be put off by the length of the pieces, but they wouldn't be th' kinda' listeners who understand this kind of free play anyway. Some beautifully strange sounds on the second cut, "I Don't Need This" (frogs kissing?), but th' winner for me was cut 4, "Heat", which also features guitar by Roger Fisher... Fisher truly understands how to integrate his guitar into the freeform landscape, not "stealing" anything from any of the other players. This is a VERY solid free-jazz album... a "must listen" for players who want to go out in their explorations, as well as for listeners who don't want to hear "just th' same riffs"... this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best recorded improv".
ACOUSTIC REIGN PROJECT, SOL DISK 321.
Depths / I Don't Need This / Waves (The Storm) / Heat - 1. 55:22
Jim Knodle, tpt; Brian Kent, ts; Roger Fisher, g - 1 only; Reuben Radding, b; Jack Gold, d. March 17, 2002, Woodinville, WA.
Brooding free-jazz anchored by the firm yet supple rhythm tandem of Radding and Gold. Listen to them evoke the lulls and sustained fury at the onset of "Waves (The Storm)" to encapsulate the shifting rhythms of nature. The piece evolves out of fury into exquisite lyrical exchanges between Kent and Knodle's refined mute work before Radding's fierce arco re-establishes the menace and fury of the storm's returning salvos. "Depths" evolves into an intensifying free-form chase between between Knodle and Kent, yet this lucid quartet dialogue assumes organic shape and sketches in many gradations along the way - the sustained lyrical interlude at the mid-point of this performance shows how the members of this unit listen to one another to evolve a collective exploration of fresh sonic terrain. A great measure of the majestic sweep of "Depths" is to compare the contrasting arco styles that Radding explores, from the busy musings of the first half to the gravity of his poignant interlude around the fifteen minute mark. This is absorbing and engaging collective music making of the first order that tangibly realizes the transformative power of the art. "I Don't Need This" is an abstract freescape that sounds like a flashback to vintage Art Ensemble of Chicago and is therefore a definite plus in my book, as it was the AEOC that really opened up to me the beauty, force, and shifting collective focus of abstract music as an improvised art form of the highest order. Guitar player Fisher fits in well with the ensemble and supplies further color to the shifting dynamics of "Heat" which ends with a solo by Gold who concludes the ritual with the sound of the unexpected, an apt way to end a substantial musical feast. David Lewis, Cadence, February 2004
Acoustic Reign Project
Track Listing: Depths; I Don't Need This; Waves (The Storm); Heat
Personnel: Jim Knodle - trumpet; Brian Kent - saxophone; Roger Fisher - guitar (on "Heat"); Reuben Radding - bass; Jack Gold - drums
What separates the men from the boys, so to speak, in free jazz is Gary Peacock's term "spontaneous composition." At its worst self-indulgent, at its best transcendent, free jazz is arguably the genre that shows off exactly how big the ears of its participants truly are. In the case of Acoustic Reign Project the ears are very big indeed, as the group navigates its way through four free improvisations that demonstrate a high level of interaction and empathy. Trumpeter Jim Knodle has been playing free jazz for over two decades, and he clearly understands how to pull motifs out of the ether. In tenor saxophonist Brian Kent he has the perfect foil: a player who is independent enough to chart his own course, but sympathetic enough to grab onto ideas presented and work closely with them. Bassist Reuben Radding, who also has a history in the avant garde and is equally at home plucking, strumming and bowing his instrument, works well with drummer Jack Gold, as they sometimes barely breath on their instruments, other times creating a maelstrom behind the front line. Again, the two show a remarkable musical telepathy with Kent and Knodle. While guitarist Roger Fisher adds some interesting texture to "Heat," the one track on which he performs, it is almost an afterthought; still, he demonstrates the same ability to coalesce with the others and then diverge into foreign territory. While this is clearly an exercise in group improvisation, it does appear that there are, at least, some roadmaps within the four pieces. If the ears can't support that, then the fact that Fisher is listed as co-composer on "Waves (The Storm)," on which he does not perform, would support the fact that there must be loose sketches provided, around which the group experiments. But because themes seem to come and go, and are rarely repeated, the ensemble manages to completely blur the line between composition and improvisation. And that is the beauty of what they do. While there is little in the way of a rhythmic or harmonic centre on any of these pieces, they do manage to have a strange sense of inner logic and development. Occasionally the rhythm section comes together and establishes an actual groove, as on the 19-minute track "Heat"; but it isn't long before Radding and Gold break down into chaos once again. While Acoustic Reign Project is not an easy listen, it is more accessible than, say Evan Parker, Chris Burn or Joëlle Léandre. And the clear communication that exists between the players is a true delight; with Acoustic Reign Project Knodle, Kent, Radding, Gold and Fisher show that free improvisation can be more than simply a vehicle for self-expression; it can represent a group mind, a collective that listens to each others' ideas and builds on them to create new and meaningful ideas.
Acoustic Reign Project
The words "avant-garde", or in this case "free jazz", once held power, but through the years they've become patsies of sorts -- license for sloppy performers and composers to become more so. Some of the artists who work within this genre carve "go for the pain" on top of their music stands and specialize in unleashing sonic mayhem, working under the assumption that faster, louder and more bombastic equals "experimental". They usually respond to criticism with, "You just don't get it, man."
Not so, on both counts, the Acoustic Reign Project. These five performers combine their experience and diversity -- they've performed with everyone from John Zorn and Daniel Carter (bassist Reuben Radding) to Wayne Horvitz (trumpeter Jim Knodle) to Heart (guitarist Roger Fisher is a founding member of, yes, that Heart), to create music that avoids these pitfalls. The twenty minute "Depths" begins with each member standing at attention, a call and response of sustained horn notes and the rhythm section in "Bitches Brew" mode (casually wandering around, avoiding the groove without making too much of a ruckus). The track develops from this point in a similar fashion, tenor Brian Kent and Knodle trading solos and building tension to what could be a monstrous climax. Before they wax too dissonant, everything falls away except sax and trumpet, which begin a duet of elided melodies that is soon joined by contrabass. The band remains even more subdued and mysterious while Kent and Knodle sporadically trade solos and Gold opts to switch from kit to wooden chimes and sleigh bells. Slowly gaining momentum, Gold and Radding radically swing the rhythm, but the most exciting moment comes from the stark and beautiful bass solo that carries the piece to its end; the remaining band-members stay back, barely noticeable as they return in near palindrome form.
If the previous track wasn't evidence of Acoustic Reign Project's ability to work in subtlety, "I Don't Need This" takes it down a notch or two, relying on silence and space to make its point. Again, each member announces his attendance, but this time in another language: Kent makes sucking sounds from his reed, Radding pinches strings and taps out harmonics, Gold gives his skins a thumb roll and an occasional com and cymbal roll, while Knodle pulls the group along with a disconnected melody. However, as soon as the other guys follow suit, he decides to speak into his mouthpiece and let out a few overblown squeaks. You'll barely notice the bass and drums, shaking in the depths of the mix, until the band sinks into a jam that rises to a fury (relatively speaking) and ends without warning. The aptly named "Waves (The Storm)" is a tad more boisterous, though it retains the same dynamic feel that you've grown accustomed to so far. Little bursts of melody, quotes from pieces such as "So What" and "Giant Steps", are passed back and forth between Knodle and Kent, while the rhythm section explores various tempos and styles. "Heat" marks the first appearance of guitarist Fisher, and what a first impression it is: his addition firms up the rumbling texture, and he occasionally picks along with the Knodle/Kent combo until his Page-meets-Alex-Lifeson-meets-George-Benson licks stand up for a solo or two of their own.
Even when each player strays from the pack to do his own thing, it's tasteful. No one steps on anyone's toes, and the synergy the band exudes is something that groups who perform together for 20 years would envy.
The members of Acoustic Reign Project definitely respect free jazz tradition, and react accordingly -- that is to say, they're secure enough when working in the genre to use it as a tool rather than a gimmick, and they pull it off with rare grace and competence.
Dave Madden, Splendid, August 7, 2004
Lost Valentine/Acoustic Reign Project
Drummer and producer Jack Gold is the founder of the independent label Sol Disc, which gives a recording outlet to many musicians of Seattle's creative scene. Two of Sol Disc's recent releases, both produced by Gold, come from Lost Valentine and Acoustic Reign Project. Lost Valentine is a power trio formed by Greg Keplinger (drums), Rueben Radding (double bass) and Wally Shoup (sax). In their debut, that was recorded live, they release tons of energy that springs raw from the three acoustic instruments. Under Keplinger's sweeping beat and the heavy yet brisk steps of Radding who explores the dark side of his bass, Shoup's raucous alto shoots with incredible power bursts of explosive phrases. Radding is also the bassist in the Acoustic Reign Project, a quartet led by Jack Gold (Sol Disc's founder). The other members of the quartet are trumpeter Jim Knodle and sax player Brian Kent. All of the album's tracks are collectively composed and how else could it be since in fact they are collective improvisations. The sound is full of lyricism and compared to Lost Valentine's is less raw. Knodle and Kent have elaborated many themes and they have been well practiced in the question and answer game. Radding has a great variety in his playing and uses the bow in a very inventive way, while Gold avoids outbursts creating a solid polyrhythmic base. The album's best track is the 20-minute long "Heat," with the contribution of Roger Fisher - former guitarist of the famous rock group Heart initially on acoustic guitar (a rather unusual instrument for free jazz) and then on electric guitar. Concluding both albums are worth checking (available through internet of course) and offer enough evidence of the independent Sol Disc's nice work and the North West Coast big city's musical power.
Vangelis Aragiannis, Apopsy, March 2005, Greece