Kris Davis - piano, Ingrid Laubrock - ts., Ralph Alessi - trp., Drew Gress - bass , Tom Rainey - drums
Tom Rainey has been a fixture in New York's Downtown scene since the early '90s. The stalwart drummer's current efforts have found him expanding his purview, collaborating with a new generation of creative improvisers. Working on original material with young Brooklyn-based artists like Ingrid Laubrock and Mary Halvorson, Rainey continues experiments in form and structure that he originally helped pioneer with his peers, including Tim Berne, Andy Laster and Tom Varner.
Obbligato is Rainey's second release for Intakt Records as a leader and a notable first for the intrepid percussionist since it features Great American Songbook material instead of rarefied originals, intriguingly reinterpreted by a multi-generational group of artists. Trumpeter Ralph Alessi and bassist Drew Gress are fellow Downtown scene veterans, while saxophonist Laubrock and pianist Kris Davis are prodigiously talented members of a younger generation.
Using well-known standards (Dave Brubeck's “In Your Own Sweet Way”, Thelonious Monk's “Reflections”, Duke Ellington's “Prelude to a Kiss”) as common ground, the five-piece ensemble embraces the harmonic foundations of familiar songs with a concerted focus on melodic invention.
Together they reconfigure traditional tunes as impressionistic sketches, treating timeless themes as rubato obbligatos underpinned by supple group interplay.
Kevin Whitehead writes in the liner notes: «Within those forms, it's all fluid: density, dynamics, the focus shifting from one player to another, without the others getting out of the way, exactly. The players are pretty scrupulous about minding those forms. Melodic variation is the heart of their method – they acknowledge the changes, but are very much playing the tune not just the frame, making five-way counterpoint coherent. Think of the collective improvisations as multiple obbligatos, responses to a silent theme.»
"Greater than the sum of its parts, the group's congenial rapport is emblematic of attentive listening and democratic interplay. Alessi's oblique lyricism, Laubrock's quixotic phrasing, Davis' pointed accents and Gress' pliant ruminations all work in collusion with the leader's wide-ranging dynamics. Though unconstrained by formal concerns, the musicians always maintain some key aspects of the underlying structure of each piece, be it melody, harmony or rhythm. Such awareness of the tradition enriches the depth of their interpretations, making Obbligato one of the most persuasive modern recordings of established standards in some time." Troy Collins All About Jazz