By Garaud MacTaggart
News Contributing Reviewer
Drummer Bobby Previte left Niagara Falls decades ago to live in New York City, but he always seems to find his way back to Western New York, bringing with him the pieces for his latest project. This time, Previte brought along guitarist Mike Gamble and baritone saxophonist Fabian Rucker to help him perform an impressive batch of works specifically created for this lineup.
It was an evening of music that demanded attention and an audience that was ready to pay it. The concert space at Hallwalls was small but packed with people committed to the venue and the varied artistic opportunities it offers. Most of the patrons greeted each other like old friends, an audience familiar with itself and comfortable with each other.
Much of the material played at Monday night’s gig appeared on an album from 2012 (“Plutino”) that Previte created with Italian musicians Francesco Diodati and Beppe Scardino. The lineup change didn’t affect the quality of the music and, truth be told, the excitement generated by the current ensemble was such that the end results were impressive in their own right and well worth revisiting.
All musicians play with sound, it just depends on how they organize the results. For this event, easels were on the stage stacked with scores that seemed to act as guides for the evening instead of hard and fast rules, suggestions for the music to follow instead of a straitjacket to constrain the contours of the sound.
In the end, this wasn’t music that caressed the ear; rather it commanded the feet to follow the rhythms while challenging the mind to chase the changes.
There were two extremes running alongside each other in this mix. First, there was Previte’s funk-drenched drum patterns driving time into a frenzy as Rucker’s punched up bari roared and Gamble’s guitar sliced and diced space into little cells of rhythm. Then there were passages carved out for solo spots and others featuring delicately unhinged washes of sound as the pace slowed to a near stand still before jump-starting the cycle all over again.
While the sounds played may have seemed random to the uninitiated, there was ample proof that there were points spread amongst the improvisations where agreement was mandated. When that happened, these guys were able to stop on a dime, pick it up, and carry on with the proceedings.
It was difficult to pick out a highlight for the evening, but the first set performances of “Austerity” and “Default,” tunes that Previte implied were related, would be high on the list. They embodied much of what the program was about.
Previte played around with his sticks and mallets, creating sounds ranging from thumping toms to whispered cymbal work. Rucker’s baritone had a gut bucket quality to it that lent itself to being an alternative rhythm source to the drum kit while Gamble’s riffing and note bending soared between lead and pulse. It was an impressive performance that deserved to be heard by a wider audience.
Monday evening in Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave.