Bobby Previte is a respected drummer and composer, working mostly in modern jazz oriented fields, although that only begins to scratch at the surface of his work. Rhapsody continues his Terminals trilogy on the subject of migration and transit. This album is subtitled Terminals Part II: In Transit, as can be gleaned from the track titles here. You can find Terminals Part I on his Bandcamp page.
Previte became fascinated with the peculiar sensations evoked when travelling: dislocation, freedom, hope, trepidation, and the transitory relationships with fellow travellers. He is a descendant of relatively recent immigrant stock into the U.S.A. whose mother was born in Sicily, as his maternal grandmother, pregnant with her daughter was refused entry to the U.S. and sent back from whence she came.
Rhapsody is a composition for acoustic instruments, yet transmits its own electricity, as this music is highly charged, most notably Fabian Rucker’s coruscating alto sax interjections. His solo towards the end of the eleven minute All The World is edge-of-the-seat stuff. The music on Rhapsody varies from the abstract to fully formed song performance, sometimes within the same piece. Previte’s first attempts at lyric writing presented here underscore the themes in a concise manner, aided by Jen Shyu’s precise and unadorned voice. “I’m drifting in the dark, my life a question mark”, sings the hopeful traveller on the evocative When I Land. This is most certainly an album that will hold your attention.
From the ethereal abstractions of initial stirrings of The Lost, a soaring thing of beauty slowly emerges from the waves of Zeena Parkins’ harp, with the piano and the guitar conversing as seabirds on the wing, in the wake of the boat heading for as yet unseen shores. The Timekeeper has a curiously glacial quality, with Jen’s voice at its most defined. All Hands is stentorian in the fashion of a Peter Hammill song, here given edge by the rhythmic sax lines, before Jen takes it down an African-sounding path, despite her East Asian heritage. The song ends with some impressive non-linear blues acoustic guitar playing from Nels Cline, one of three musicians here with a long history in electric music.
The spotlight falls once more on the highly talented Ms Shyu on the balladic Last Stand/Final Approach, which is introduced with some keening musical imploring on her erhu, aka Chinese violin, a two-stringed bowed instrument, followed up with some gossamer-light vocalisations. To me, Jen is the star of this remarkable album, where all the players shine. The same track showcases some fine harmonica work and climaxes with a stellar muted sax solo from Fabian. The melody of Last Stand… continues into the last song, I Arrive, making the final two tracks something of a mini-epic. Everywhere I listen nowadays I seem to hear the influence of Philip Glass, and it seems to be here in the piano line. This is not a bad thing!
“I arrive, a refugee… when I arrive will I find a friend or enemy?”, implores Jen, the appeal mirrored by the erhu. Quite lovely.
If you appreciate consummate skill in composition and arrangements you cannot fail to appreciate this fine album. Highly recommended.
01. Casting Off (6:57)
02. All The World (10:57)
03. The Lost (9:12)
04. When I Land (3:28)
05. The Timekeeper (5:28)
06. Coming About (1:42)
07. All Hands (9:20)
08. Last Stand/Final Approach (8:35)
09. I Arrive (8:23)
Total Time – 64:12
John Medeski – Piano
Zeena Parkins – Harp
Fabian Rucker – Alto Saxophone
Jen Shyu – Voice, Erhu, Piano
Nels Cline – Acoustic Guitar, Slide Guitar, 12-string Guitar
Bobby Previte – Trap Drums, Percussion, Autoharp, Guitar, Harmonica
Record Label: RareNoise Records
Year of Release: 2018