Jordan Rudess - Rhythm Of Time Magna Carta “Dream Theater,” keyboardist Jordan Rudess and a slew of progressive-rock guitar gods navigate tricky time signatures on this high-flying production. At times, it’s difficult to discern whether it’s Rudess performing his synth lines or guitarists such as Greg Howe and Joe Satriani’s, high-tech – into the ozone – type leads. Essentially, Rudess is a speed demon on the keys. Occasionally, he interjects slick jazz grooves into the mix, but the thrust of this generally, soaring affair is rooted within his polytonal chord progressions, and layered orchestrations. And as we might expect, drummer Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs) handles the difficult pulses with chutzpah along with a whiz-bang approach to dynamics.
Über-lunged German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann teamed up with American vanguard legend Joe McPhee (who plays alto, tenor, trumpet, and pocket cornet here), bassist Kent Kessler, and drummer Michael Zerang (four-tenths of the Tentet Brötzmann toured and recorded with in the late '90s) for a single day of exchanging tunes and improvising in June 2002. McPhee and Brötzmann are perfect foils for one another on the front line. They both have requisite force, but McPhee is also a chameleon's player; he understands what lies in the spaces and knows how to make the most of it. His own compositions here, which account for over half the album, stress the kind of joint front-line melodies and close harmonics that create inner space in a tune – just check his two-part "Stone Poem" and his "Anticipation of the Next," dedicated to departed bassists Peter Kowald and Wilbur Morris, for evidence. Brötzmann offers some surprises here in his pieces as well, not the least of which is his reformulation of a hymn Thelonious Monk recorded shortly before his death, originally entitled "This Is My Story, This Is My Song." Titled "Blessed Assurance" here, it takes the hymn, moves through its changes twice, and extrapolates them through his solo and the band's collective improvisation. McPhee's trumpet is the perfect complement and the pair sound like Albert and Don Ayler swinging their chariots toward the heavenly gates. Likewise, the beautiful art-damaged composition "Pieces of Red, Green, and Blue" (supposedly written about a museum experience he and Brötzmann shared) offers killer honking saxophone phrases that are repeated, striated, warped, turned inside out and back on themselves, and finally exploded into intense and inspired group interplay. This is a fiery and yet accessible date that showcases many aspects of the two men not only as players, but as composers as well.
Jason Eckardt steps forward with this Mode release as a fearless young proponent of modernism in all its complexity, a shining alternative to the prevalent eclecticism of our time. His Ensemble 21, formed in 1993, deserves acclaim as well, a unit seemingly out of step with the American musical landscape, and not surprisingly pursuing collaborations with Boulez's IRCAM and other European composers and musicians.