Half Joking by Charles Rumback
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About the Album
Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker are both known for their creativity and curious spirits. Rumback is a drummer in high demand in Chicago’s free-jazz circles, and a pillar of the second wave of improvisers in a scene first shaped by the legendary players like Sun Ra and the AACM. Walker draws deeply on other distinctly American styles, bringing a strong sense of folk tradition to his playing that is as arresting as his freewheeling performance style. Walker’s musical explorations are not limited to his own songwriting: the guitarist regularly collaborates in Chicago and now New York with innovators of every genre. Together, Rumback and Walker find common ground in their kinetic, intuitive playing and yearning creative outlook. Little Common Twist, their sophomore release as a duo, finds both players at their most adventurous. It compiles instrumental pieces that convey a striking range of emotions, at once introspective and expansive, with a delicate interplay that delights as they move with ease across a spectrum of styles. The recording has a pastoral quality that recalls Van Morrison’s classic album Veedon Fleece, and captures a remarkably dexterous performance by both Charles and Ryley that make this album so expansive and fresh.
Little Common Twist was recorded over several sessions throughout 2017 and 2018 with producer John Hughes, capturing the duo playing in the moment with minimal overdubs. The guitar and drums duo eschewed each instrument’s traditional roles of rhythm and melody, experimenting with texture and rhythm. Rumback and Walker remarkably paint in both broad, gestural strokes and intricate melodic details. “Half Joking” and “Self Blind Sun” are warm, deep songs that draw on structures from the American primitive guitar songbook. “Idiot Parade” (featuring Nick Macri on bass) leaps into more explorative territory, Rumback setting an urgent, rolling cymbal groove while Walker paints melodic sonic vapour trails across the sky. “Menehbi” experiments further with abstract forms, atomising guitar and drums into an ambient haze where loose flourishes from Rumback hint at rhythm and structure, while a steady electronic pulse provides an anchor amidst the fog.
Little Common Twist is the culmination of a creative partnership that has seen Rumback and Walker constantly challenging each other. In stretching the bounds of their interplay even further than before, the duo created their most evocative and expansive work to date, conjuring the afterglow of sun-scorched landscapes and ethereal after-hours ambience.
Half Joking; Self Blind Sun; Idiot Parade; And You, These Sang; Menebhi; If You're Around and Down; Worn and Held.
John Hughes: synthesizers and programming.
April 7, 2020
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