Bumps contains three works for solo piano composed by Frederic Rzewski in the late '80s and early '90s, each with a character very different from his better-known works based on worker's anthems and folk forms. The title track, dedicated to saxophonist Steve Lacy, actually uses a technique found in The People United Will Never Be Defeated! wherein the composer plays a set of sequences in which the last recapitulates aspects of all the preceding sets, that recapitulation itself coming back in the final sequence of a yet larger set, and so on, the material folding back over itself like kneaded dough. The material itself is indeed bumpy, far more abstract than much of his earlier writing, often as knotty as the music of its dedicatee. "Andante Con Moto" is made up of 14 variations on a theme from Beethoven's "Piano Sonata in F Minor, Op.57," though the theme itself is never actually heard. Instead, Rzewski constructs a kind of cloud version of it, referring to the melody obliquely in a refracted manner or even emotionally, trying to understand what else may have been going on in Beethoven's head. It has a generally somber and serious character and, while sounding fairly modernist, resonates with stormy, romantic allusions and feelings. The final composition, written at the request of pianist Aki Takahashi, is based around a Japanese myth as embodied in a famous rock garden in Kyoto. The music is appropriately spare and delicate, filled with both playful trills and calm silences with a slight dab of minimalism. All three works are rewarding and offer the listener a different facet of this composer's character, perhaps an unexpected one. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick