Today’s Sounds: Tom Rainey Trio
Tom Rainey Trio, Camino Cielo Echo (Intakt)
All good improvisers have a signature sound, and the best keep evolving to remain fresh. In the absence of compositions, the act of assembling a group creates the ingredients for improv. It’s always fun to imagine how a unit might sound based on the individuals within, but the best can surprise with interactions that catalyze past expectations.
After over 20 years and dozens of releases as a sideman with everyone from Kenny Werner to Tim Berne, drummer Tom Rainey’s first session as leader was 2010’s Pool School. He has often played in groups without a bass player, freeing the rhythm section to interact musically, not just to keep time. His playing often burrows a deep funky groove, but can veer into atmospherics.
This bass-less trio features saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock (Rainey’s wife) and guitarist Mary Halvorson. Laubrock released two Brazilian-influenced jazz recordings in the late ’90s, but has since changed direction, playing with avant superstars Anthony Braxton and Veryan Weston.
Mentors Joe Morris and Braxton both encouraged Halvorson to find her own voice, and her style can usually be recognized within two notes. Her unique tone is betrayed by alternating clean squiggly lines disturbed by delay-pedal pitch swoops with heavily fuzzed-out chords and jagged, circling melodies.
Imagining this trio together conjured up fuzzy, edgy mutant funk, relieved by some quieter moments of restless tension. This turns out to be pretty accurate through the 13 tracks, the longest under eight minutes.
“Mullet Toss” and “Corporal Fusion” fit the mold, providing spastic yet hard-driving rhythms supporting raucous independent lines from Laubrock and Halvorson. Breaks occur within the scorchers, the coda of “Two Words” evoking conciliation following an argument. “Arroyo Burrow” features a stellar demonstration of Halvorson’s pitch-bending technique, and Laubrock’s skills shine on “Mental Stencil,” her buzzy bee floating on Halvorson’s flighty noodles.
Nevertheless, it’s surprising how comfortable the group seems on the spacier titles, sparse use of echo meshing with Rainey’s gentle brushing. As the title implies, both the hard road and the open sky are echoed here.
Next week sees the release of Numbers by Odd Future’s Hodgy Beats and Left Brain (aka MellowHype) on Odd Future/Sony. This is the latest in their series of preview tracks.
Perfume Genius, “Take Me Home”
Seattle’s Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, does the industrial hustle in this video directed by Patrick Sher. The song appeared on his album Put Your Back N 2 It, released back in February by Matador.