Sunday, December 26, 2010

Susie Ibarra - Radiance

Drummer Susie Ibarra has in her short time as a leader, assembled a trio that shines so brightly it seems incomprehensible that their "radiance" could be captured in a studio recording. Nonetheless, Radiance is the evidence of this band's wondrous versatility, taste and collective musicianship. Ibarra plays drums and assorted percussion. Veteran pianist Cooper-Moore (in his most understated performance on record) also plays harp and diddley-bo and violinist Charles Burnham from James Blood Ulmer's Odyssey band, join her. Over nine tracks, including the heartbreakingly beautiful title suite, Ibarra and company virtually reinvent modern jazz, carrying its rampant improvisational excesses over the edge into contoured statements of lithe chromatic lyricism and tact, and, creating a compositional framework for the expression of true collective and individual creativity. Radiance's three parts are a jazz folk suite. Ibarra's percussive subtleties are layered over by gorgeous violin work from Burnham playing parsed phrases and elliptical Eastern melodies as Moore offers the harp as a bridge between the two carrying forth melody and rhythm entwined. On the last movement he uses the diddley-bo as a contrapuntal device to Burnham's pastoral yet elegant lines. Further, there exists a wildly inventive cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Up From the Skies," with a gorgeous percussion and drum solo that is so sparse in its beginnings one would never guess that a tune follows it. When the melody finally does enter it's through the back door, with Burnham playing through a wah-wah pedal to bring it out a struggling note at a time. Still it moves and gives way to a phenomenal jam in the center, full of funk and groove. "Jagged Threads" is a Latin-tinged jazz variation on the tango. Cooper-Moore's depth of field here comes in handy, because it's his pacing and multifaceted solo that keeps the tune both focused yet expands its reach with multiples of arpeggiated scales filling up the intervals in the middle when the melody gives way harmonically, yet allowing Burnham to bring it back without a stitch. There are alternate takes of "Dreams" and "Laughter" from Radiance that fill the set, and given their striking melodic invention and extrapolated sense of Eastern harmonic sensibilities and their truly beautiful architecture, they stand alone as well as they do within the suite. This is the band to watch, folks. -- Thom Jurek


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