Yimba Rudo – Barking Hoop

by | Mar 9, 2020 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Yimba Rudo – Yimba Rudo – [TrackList follows] – Barking Hoop BKH012, 57:33 [7/5/19] ****:

(Kevin Norton – vibraphone, percussion; Jim Pugliese – drums, percussion; Steve LaSpina – double bass)

There are unique combinations in some jazz groups. One example is the trio Yimba Rudo, a New York City avant-jazz threesome—instilled by African rhythms and world music as well as other inspirations—which comprises vibraphonist Kevin Norton (who also adds percussion), double bassist Steve LaSpina and drummer/percussionist Jim Pugliese. The band’s 58-minute, self-titled debut balances an avant-garde predisposition with approachable jazz. Essentially, this is chamber jazz with a modern stance.

The three musicians have credits which show their assorted backgrounds and influences. Norton has performed with Anthony Braxton on more than a dozen Braxton releases; Norton has also played with guitarist Fred Frith, Milt Hinton and John Zorn. Pugliese has been a member of The Harry Partch Ensemble and has worked with many NYC downtown scenesters such as Zorn, Marc Ribot, Zeena Parkins and Bobby Previte. LaSpina’s résumé includes Jim Hall, Dave Liebman, Pat Martino and more. The 13 originals are split between the three: Norton penned seven; Pugliese wrote four; and LaSpina composed two. The music’s aesthetic is individualistic and adventurous. Sometimes there is a rebellious pulse where drums and vibes go from caressing percussive elements to dissonant displays, as during Pugliese’s five-minute city-centric “Toronto,” where an explorative percussive resonance mingles with LaSpina’s elegant arco bass lines. The opener, Norton’s “Reconcile the Classical View,” is also notable. The vibes have a swinging but evasive quality and there is an artful bass pattern behind the vibes solo which helps sustain an investigative inclination. Norton’s agitated “Moonstruck” is also memorable especially due to a tempestuous relationship between bass and drums.

On the other hand, the trio exhibits a quieter demeanor on introspective pieces. Steve LaSpina’s brief, grey-etched “Winter Retreat” has an overcast and melancholy essence accentuated by LaSpina’s cinematic arco performance. Norton’s literary-leaning “The Faustian Bargain” is also a succinct soundtrack looking for a short film, maybe something surreal by directors Guy Maddin or Esteban Sapir. The title to LaSpina’s “Tearing Down Walls” might have some political commentary, yet the track isn’t forceful but rather a mood piece with varied sections: although it’s a touch under four minutes, it has a suite-like expansive eminence with ebbs, flows and tension.

The CD has several beguiling tunes. Pugliese’s well-designed composition, “Morph,” merges nearly-humming melodic concepts with a focused rhythmic resolve. Norton’s instinctive “I Dig Facts, Man” has an optimistic approach with snappish harmonic instances and improvisational rhythmic specifics. The album closes with the most accessible and certainly catchiest number, Norton’s swinging “Walking the Dogma,” which has a grooving motif and shaded interchanges between bass, drums and vibes. Yimba Rudo’s many musical transmutations and extemporizations are best experienced with open-minded consideration where listeners should stay attentive and follow the blend of abstract and articulate jazz. Kudos to engineer Tom Tedesco who also aided in the mixing and mastering. He cogently brings out the nuances and details of every instrument.

Reconcile the Classical View
Winter Retreat
Over and Inside the Rainbow
The Faustian Bargain
Tearing Down Walls
Sacrifice Zone (ahead)
Polar Oscillation
I Dig Facts, Man
Walking the Dogma

—Doug Simpson

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