|This is a 'jam band' that casts its net wide but keeps a sharp focus. Its about grooves, grooves in every sense of the word. No solos in the standard framework - this is a group going for musical strength through sonic cohesion and rhythms that are both 'tight' and 'loose'. Better living through better listening.
"What King Crimson did for rock and Voivod did for heavy metal, the quartet of Ned Rothenberg, David Tronzo, Stomu Takeishi and Tony Buck might one day do for improvised music if their performance at Issue Project Room (Nov. 13th, 2005) was any indication. The granite rotunda of the Brooklyn venue was transformed into a cyclotron for two stunning sets of music, beams of sound spinning around at hyperspeed. Those that know Tronzo's slide guitar as a warm inviting presence were chilled by its bleak, almost apocalyptic message. Buck's drums and Takeishi's electric fretless effected bass provided searing rhythms over which the guitar and Rothenberg's circular breathed reeds bubbled, volcanic in purpose and execution. If Ornette Coleman innovated the 'time, no changes' approach to jazz, this quartet's advance was 'intensity over time'. -Andrey Henkin, All About Jazz, NY
Bruce Gallanter's (owner of Downtown Music Gallery) review:
The Fell Clutch (Animul 105) The Fell Clutch feature Ned Rothenberg on bass & regular clarinets & alto sax, Stomu Takeishi on fretless electric bass, Tony Buck on drums and Dave Tronzo on slide guitar (3 tracks only). There was rave review of this quartet playing live in Brooklyn last year by Andre Henkin in All About Jazz, so I've been eagerly awaiting this disc to arrive. And what an amazing and unlikely downtown all-star quartet this is. I recall Ned Rothenberg sitting in with Spanish Fly (Tronzo, Steve Bernstein & Marcus Rojas) in the recent past and fretless bass god, Stomu Takeishi (Threadgill's Make a Move & Myra Melford) has been a longtime partner with Tronzo in his trios/duo throughout the years, so that's where these connections were made. Australian drum wiz, Tony Buck (The Necks), has been coming to town pretty often in the last few years and has played at a couple of Zorn's monthly improv sessions at The Stone, which is where this quartet first played together. Enough history. Which brings us to this colossal trio and quartet date.
The Fell Clutch love to twist its grooves inside-out. Ned establishes the groove on the opening piece, "moment of reloading" on his bass clarinet with Tony playing skeletal drums, Stomu throbbing those cool bass swirls and Dave playing his fractured slide sounds. Stomu's sly, distinctive fretless bass sound starts off "life in your years" with Ned's sumptuous clarinet and Dave's haunting slide slowly swirling around one another, a superb gem. What is most wonderful about this disc is that although it is mostly improvised, this trio or quartet sound as if they are playing mainly charted pieces, so focused is the overall sound. On "food for a rambling", Ned sets up an odd groove with a bent sax -line that he repeats and twists into odd shapes as he circular breathes with the bass and drums punctuate his groove. It's always great to hear Tronzo make his guitar talk, which he does on a number of these pieces with his wah-wah slide playing. I dig the way the guitar, bass & drums often set up these great little grooves, sometimes a bit bent but always infectious in one way or another. "epic in difference" is in fact an epic-length piece that begins with immense suspense, floats eerily with Ned playing dijeradoo-like bass clarinet. The bass and guitar sound like mutant ghosts as Tony plays alarm clock-like cymbals. It builds in intensity as it develops, feeling like some sort of ritualistic dance of the spirits. This is a most mesmerizing journey through some dark lands. An awesome endeavor from a fine quartet downtown's best.