|At their most laissez-faire, these pieces are tributes to four colleagues whose playing I adore: structures that enable me to finagle my friends into improvising together in certain combinations at certain times. But where they are more determinate, the tunes are devised as an excuse to indulge my lyrical side. (K.Bruckmann)
JazzReview.Com: Creating a list of jazz or improvised musicians that opt for a double reed instrument as their main vessel for expression is a rather taxing exercise. Sure, Joe Farrell varied his horn choice on occasion, and of course, Yusef Lateef is a great experimenter, although he will always be known as a saxophonist first. Indeed, few, if any have chosen such an instrument as their main focus, perhaps due to the ease with which such muted tones could potentially be lost in the shuffle of improvised music.
Following his own sonic path, classically-trained double reedist Kyle Bruckmann seeks to express himself in a very personal way, exclaiming that, yes indeed, the oboe and English horn can be utilized in this seemingly incompatible environment. As Bruckmann himself states in the liners, his aim is "an attempt to create space for my voice and my instrument within an ever-evolving tradition that hovers at the crossroads of other traditions". Such interest in several traditions is firmly demonstrated through Bruckmann's playing experiences, including work with Scott Rosenberg's large ensemble, the punk band Lozenge, and the double reed trio Corbus. Such "illegitimate" music might shock the fuddy-duddies, but for those with open ears, Bruckmann's conception will prove to be a feast.
As for Bruckmann's Wrack ensemble, he has assembled a quintet with the wonderfully peculiar front-line of Bruckmann, trombonist Jeb Bishop and violist Jen Clare Paulson. They are supported by the crack rhythm team of bassist Kurt Johnson and drummer Tim Daisy. Bruckmann's compositions are a carefully constructed balancing act between a written hybrid of jazz/classical motifs and improvised interplay. These seven compositions (with one non-original) emphasize a dark, reflective sound that thrives on dynamic variance with plenty of room for the session's linchpin Tim Daisy and his absorbing, propulsive drumming textures.
The record begins with the aptly titled, "Rather Dour", a dreary landscape traversed by Bruckmann/Bishop/Paulson over the eventually emerging Johnson/Daisy static pattern. Somewhat similarly, "Elegy For A Boiled Frog" commences as a muted classical theme before the rhythm section's vamp sets the stage for Bishop's jagged, yet lucid lines (proving why he is one of today's pre-eminent trombonists). Daisy not only serves as the backbone for much of the activities here, but also frequently colorizes the terrain, especially on "Extenuating Circumstances" and the sadly beautiful "Mitigating Factors". The group also shows that it has plenty of muscle too (don't worry about Bruckmann, though), as demonstrated on the long crescendo of "Sins Of Omission" and the pleasantly startling "Gearshifts & Parentheticals". The latter features Bishop et al at their most intense, thanks to the inspiration of Daisy's Lytton/Lovens-inspired mechanical sound exploitation. Finally, on Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman", the ensemble cuts to the core of the piece in perhaps the most breathtaking version of this song ever recorded (after Ornette, of course).
This is not your typical jazz or improvised music record and for the sheer adventure of it all, as well as the chance to enjoy some accomplished Chicagoans (and one now ex-Chicagoan, the leader), it is a worthy taste of several considerable talents.