Ratliff plays trumpet, cornet, trombone, euphonium, or accordion and leads the five-piece band Rhapsodalia that sounds much larger. Compositionally, comparisons can be made to the Either/Orchestra, the Microscopic Septet, and Carla Bley, while distinct Far Eastern elements, European movie music, and rock & roll are easily identified. Alto and baritone saxophonist Michael Attias and violinist Sam Bardfeld add plenty of heft to the charts, while bassist John Hebert and drummer Kevin Norton do their best to power through changes and various time signatures. There are ten compositions, all penned by Ratliff except the modified traditional Chinese song "Wong Fei-Hong Theme" with taped "ah so" spoken-word intro, a definite oriental vibe, trilled violin, and a rockish beat. "Bip Bip" is a 5/4 to 4/4 rocker with bold, pronounced horns; "Nothing but Love" is a 6/8 inserted in 4/4 swing; "Hotcakes" is a little, lithe tango cha cha cha; and "Little Strudel" uses a slighter tangolike rock beat. Influences are more clearly delineated during the very Carla Bley-ish "Ida Lupino"; the styled but quicker "Fish Song," heavy on violin and counterpointed coda; and "Who Rota This Tune?," which displays a film noir quality with no time bass and trombone light rock/pop elements. Over 11 minutes, "When the Master's Away" sports a two-note ostinato bass and trumpet with a harder-edged beat, no time accordion, violin, and bass bridge. Ratliff's trombone again crops up, leading the way as Bardfeld follows on more ostinato, ticktock rattling, a ska feel, rousing collective horn lines, and a swing section for "Milos the Cat." The finale "'l'Historie des Nuits Passes" is a violin induced drama waltz. Ratliff presents some interesting asides to creative instrumental music in the new century, mixing and matching a variety of worldwide styles and techniques to come up with a new music that is in an embryonic stage with infinite potential. Rhapsodalia offers an intriguing entry point.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos