Paul Rutherford

Hoxha

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Paul Rutherford's visit to the United States in 2002 gave birth to a number of fine releases, but this recording from a return trip two years later is a notch better. The Englishman was in Portland, OR, on December 12, 2004, performing in an all-star free improv quartet that also featured Chicago mainstay Ken Vandermark, bassist Torsten Müller, and Canadian drummer extraordinaire Dylan van der Schyff. The trombonist is in good shape, throwing in strong exchanges, especially with Vandermark's tenor sax and Müller, but the album's best moments happen with the whole group in full motion. "King Ghidora" offers a vehement show opener: tenor sax and drums are hyperactive, pushing the quartet into high-energy territory, until things suddenly break down into quieter fragmented improvisation -- truly a piece of anthology. Other highlights are found in "Iris," more paced, and "Dagahra," another frantic run, this one triggered by a drum solo. The longest track at 21 minutes, "Baragon" runs into a couple of vacuous episodes, but these are short and the musicians eventually manage to bring the piece into focus again. The closing "Rokurokubi" is a stunning piece of quiet work, with everyone making as little sound as possible while keeping the music very much alive. Rutherford has been documented more in solo or very small settings in the early 2000s, but he remains a keenly discerning group player, as this finely recorded release demonstrates.

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