Branch Will Not Break
'The Branch Will Not Break is an impressive collection of musical episodes. To call them songs would be somewhat innaccurate because they're closer to tone poems, or paintings with notes. And this splendid trio - Carrie Shull on oboe and English horn, Tara Flandreau on viola, and Reuben Radding on double bass - are like a collective Jackson Pollock, working on a canvas that barely contains the energy of their ideas. The opening title tune suggests a traditional symphonic warmup, but the conventional quickly ends as the music escalates to a Phillip Glass-like freneticism, with Flandreau's viola and Radding's double bass dancing fiercely with Shull's oboe. On 'Tell the Bees,' Radding simply let's his double bass creak as the imagery shifts among a beehive, a traffic jam, gulls shrieking above the seashore and a ship at sea creaking with the list of the waves. 'In Fear of Harvest' is a melancholy, dark, brooding, string-driven piece and on 'Echolocation' Shull wails on the oboe like Trane blowing the soprano, moving the disc into the realm of free jazz chamber music. Some of the landscapes herein are densely populated; others, like 'Twilights' and 'Zooid,' are bleak and spare, but no less affecting. There's even a wry bit of humor involving the use of time in 'Temporal Defense,' the shortest piece on the disc. In light of the naturalistic bent of the titles, the final tune, 'Obscure Zealots,' could be interpreted as a statement on the trio itself and how each member feels about the somewhat thankles task of expressing love of and concern for the natural world through music. It is this final aspect which gives The Branch Will Not Break both it's triumph and it's sadness.' - Terrell Holmes, All About Jazz - NY CARRIE SHULL/TARA FLANDREAU/REUBEN RADDING - the branch will not break (Umbrella Records 030) Swell improv trio featuring Carrie Shull on oboe & English horn, Tara Flandreau on viola and Reuben Radding on double bass. I recall double reeds player Carrie Shull from her work with Eugene Chadbourne, but can't say I am familiar with Tara. Bassist Reuben Radding keeps busy with projects here, as well as in the Seattle area with Wally Shoup and other fine players. The title track opens with long, slightly bent drones, which soon increase in tempo and activity, then slow down to cautious, spacious fragmentation. On 'Tell the Bees', they quietly take things further out, rubbing, bending and twisting the strings as the double reed plays dark moans and sighs underneath. Although the instrumentation is more often found in modern classical chamber groups, their sound is both free yet very focused. Like the better free improv of today, it is really in between categories, having a tradition of it's own. Since this is completely acoustic music, it is carefully captured and well recorded. The magic of this trio is that it is both delicate and mysterious at the same time. It has an inner logic or thread, yet you never really know what is coming up. There is a distant calm at the center, yet the occasional agitation make things exciting at times. The cover art of red paint splotches on stone seems most fitting for the sounds found within. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery A splendid title for a splendid album. If saxophones are inevitably associated with jazz, the oboe and English horn (or cor anglais, as we call it in England - funny that isn't it?) belong to the world of classical music. Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique and all that. And when the other instruments in the group are viola and double bass, the classical connection is further reinforced. Oboist Carrie Shull first came to my attention on Eugene Chadbourne's 'The Cricket In My Life', from Insect Attracter [sic], one of the good Doctor Chad's many entomological investigations on the Leo label. And what a superb player she is. Unlike the other (the only other?) free improvising oboist on the scene, Kyle Bruckmann, Shull doesn't go to pains to make the noble instrument sound like a vintage analogue synthesizer, but her command of tricky multiphonics and microtonal inflections is just as impressive as Bruckmann's. Violist Flandreau and bassist Radding, who, you'll recall, recently popped up on Wally Shoup's Blue Purge, also on Leo, are both fabulously inventive, producing dazzling bowed and plucked work (album highlight for me: 'Echolocation') with the kind of keen ear for pitch and timbre you'd normally expect from Irvine Arditti and his boys.- Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic For those not familiar with New York bassist Reuben Radding this CD is a great place to make his aquaintence. Born In Washington, DC, Radding moved to New York in 1988 and studied there with Mark Dresser. He has over 30 recordings to his credit, including such artists as John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, Marc Ribot, and Anthony Coleman. His trio with Bay-Area violist Tara Flandreau, and North Carolina oboe and English horn player Carrie Shull has released this dynamic new CD of essentially improvised music. The CD takes it's title from James Wright's 1963 experimental set of poems and two of the tracks are also named after individual poems from the set. Here are three musicians clearly very comfortable with each other; the music must be borne of real familiarity and understanding. There is a great range of color, texture, dynamic and an especially effective use of space. At times they are so locked in rhythmically that it's hard to believe the music is purely improvised. The instruments are excellently recorded, with clarity and separation between the instruments. The English horn adds a sometimes almost predictably easgtern sounding quality, alternatively very active and haunting. Texturally, the music often deals with close dissonances, which merge and move (some great use of vibrato) with great subtlety and I think here is where perhaps I can hear the 'American grit and tenderness' with which Radding describes the Wright poems and which he 'felt this music in sympathy with.' This CD is one of the most effective freely improvised recordings I have heard for some time--the tracks all resemble highly individual compositions, which rarely dwell for long in any one place and invite frequent repeated hearings. Reuben Radding is one bass player I would like to see in live performance--he is clearly all over the instrument (occasional flashes of Peter Kowald) and this trio is clearly a great vehicle for his talent, and that of his fellow musicians. -- Rob Nairn, Bass World, International Society of Bassists A lively and vibrant recording. Double-reedists are rare enough in this music and Ms. Shull is a steady, unswerving presence, usually providing clear lines that beam through the thicket laid down by the strings, both of whom make wide use of extended techniques. Indeed, this particular combination of instrumental colors is attractive in and of itself. Radding's arco work, in pieces like "Tell the Bees", is wonderfully resonant and rich (sometimes his pizzicato recalls Dave Holland) while Flandreau effectively slithers and gasps atop. "In Fear of Harvest" begins with one of the loveliest moments on the disc, a dense, microtonal chord that sounds for all the world as though it escaped from Partch's Chromolodeon; the entire piece consists of it's attenuation and disappearance. The times the trio tones things down are when they lose their way somewhat and a vague academic aura manifests. Not too much, and there's always something going on to keep one's attention, but I got a little nervous. It ends with a lovely, brooding, almost romantic improvisation that sound a little like something Leroy Jenkins might've pulled off. A satisfying recording with several quite scrumptious highpoints. -- Brian Olewnick, Bagatellen.com.