Tone Road Ramblers

The Ragdale Years

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The Tone Road Ramblers' distinctive instrumentation is what sets them apart in the world of improvised music. What other unit combines two trombones (Morgan Powell and Jim Staley) with a flute (John Fonville), along with trumpet (Ray Sasaki), clarinet (Eric Mandat) and percussion including mallets (Steve Butters)? The funny thing is, instead of having the trombones drowning the flute, it's usually the other way around. Fonville's powerful playing cuts through the sound magma of the brass. He's at his best when paired with Butters' didjeridoo (like on the beautiful "Dididmorjeray"), which provides delicate flooring. In any case, the listener hardly notices the absence of a bass. The music, improvised, is closer to contemporary chamber music than European free jazz -- here, less really is more. Each musician brings a light touch to the whole: delicate strokes of the brush with lots of space in between. The result is very convincing: "C-U Rag" could teach a few tricks to some long-time free improv professionals out there -- the level of synergy is amazing. Vocalist Phoebe Legere appears on the last track, "Discola," adding her touch to the Tone Road Ramblers' sound, bringing a nice conclusion to the album.

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