Abbey Rader

Cosmos

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Drum-horn duets are often an invitation to excess. Not so on Cosmos, which brings reedman Dave Liebman together with drummer Abbey Rader for a well-paced set. Liebman, who usually keeps his soprano saxophone in the foreground, showcases his tenor here and adds some evocative work on a folk flute. He uses the flute to blow an invocation over Rader's cymbals at the beginning of the session, then brings it out again later in the session for the lyrical improvisation "Norwegian Fisherman," a piece that immediately precedes the closing three-song sequence dedicated to John Coltrane. (The session took place the night before what would have been Coltrane's 75th birthday.) Liebman returns to the flute a final time for "The Drum Thing," issuing a long, mournful line. In contrast, Liebman reserves his soprano for the sets most high-energy pieces -- the freewheeling title tune and "Short Call 3" and "Short Call 4." He covers the gamut of emotions on tenor, from volcanic to the closing elegy, "Peace on Earth," a reflection on the events of September 11, which occurred less than two weeks previous to the session. On drums and percussion, Rader strikes the perfect balance. He's not afraid to back off and play softly as needed, cushioning Liebman's songs with tuneful layers of rhythm. Yet given the opportunity, Rader can explode as he does during his one extended solo that brings the "Short Call" sequence to its climax. All this is captured in documentary fashion with Liebman's few brief spoken introductions left in place, resulting in an enjoyable musical time capsule.

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