New York based guitarist Thomas Reuben formed his free jazz quartet in 2006 following 20 years as a teacher and freelance guitarist working with various touring bands. Joining Reuben on this, his debut recording as a leader and producer, are drummer Marc Edwards, bassist Francois Grillot and flutist - saxophonist Diego Manuschevich. It’s important to note Reuben’s lineage in the free jazz realm comes from studies with artist pioneers like Cecil Taylor.
As an ensemble working in free jazz, perhaps the most difficult arena due to its highly interactive nature, Reuben’s group is actually pretty good. The CDs four tunes are all ensemble abstractions based on Reuben’s arrangements. On each piece the quartet works to interpret either a concept or theme. Those looking to find those concepts or themes will be totally frustrated, but the end result is something special. In sum there are only four pieces explored on the short 41 minute disc, but each is special.
The first two pieces, and the last, have the same general characteristics. Starting with a somber moment the musicians move as one towards building lines and crescendos as a direct result of their interplay. So much free jazz is just pedantic group mess, but these musicians are obviously listening to each other. Manuschevich’s wide intervallic leaps in the middle of "Six-Winged Seraph" are followed by a similar pattern of expression by Reuben. The impetus of this arrival was brought on by a rolling- and bubbling-bedrock provided by Grillot and Edwards whose only natural conclusion could be the wide motivic language later employed. The piece continues to travel forward through states of extended performance abilities that are accompanied by Reuben’s controlled harmonic underpinning before all four musicians find it at winding down and then ending abruptly. "Felling A Tree" has a beauty not heard in the other compositions based mainly on Manuschevich’s lovely flute tone and Reuben’s compelling solo. Edwards’ insistent brush work never allows the piece to settle until all four musicians allow the work to smoothly transition to Grillot’s unaccompanied double bass solo. When Reuben enters Edwards’ same insistent style, as previously heard, returns and sparks Reuben to his best solo of the disc. Reuben’s lines burn with intensity and his fire and creative ideas seem inexhaustible.
Recorded in May of 2006 this group, if they can work together long enough, has the ability to say some interesting things and make some bold artistic statements within the free jazz field. While time will only tell, this first disc is an auspicious start.