Subtle Degrees

A Dance That Empties
(New Amsterdam Records)

Fifty-one years after it was recorded, Interstellar Space, which features John Coltrane and Rashied Ali, remains the gold standard against which all saxophone-drum duo records are measured. And A Dance That Empties merits a comparison to that classic more than most recordings.

Coltrane’s intense studies of musical and spiritual matters were motivated by a search for universal structures. And in addition to music, saxophonist Travis Laplante is a practitioner of the healing art of Qigong, which restores harmony between the energies that flow within a person, and between a person and the world. Here, the players’ familiarity with one another charges the encounter with practiced empathy, as well as the need to reconnect. The altissimo whispers that open the recording can be heard as a call to prayer or to bend an ear. One key difference between Interstellar Space and Dance is the degree to which this music is orchestrated. Gerald Cleaver is credited with drum arrangements, and his intricate, evolving accompaniment completes Laplante’s circular lines and insistently repeated patterns. Ritual, personal and compositional energies converge to create music that is deeply rewarding.