By Bill Meyer | Published February 2021
Much of percussionist Adam Rudolph’s recent work with his pan-cultural Go: Organic Orchestra has embraced voluminousness. But for Focus And Field, his octet trades in more intimate interactions, instead of sweeping gestures.
Recorded at New York’s Roulette venue weeks before the pandemic shuttered the city, the album was captured with impressive clarity and permits the listener to tune into the music’s contrasting elements. Rudolph leads the group—which combines players of Japanese and Korean traditional instruments with American jazz and classical musicians—through pieces that draw upon conventionally and graphically notated scores. The expansions and contractions of energy derive from Japanese gagaku music and Noh theater; Sumie Maneko’s vocals, which occupy the foreground of the lengthy first section, come from that tradition. But the Asian elements are only part of the action. Woodwinds form a brooding chamber ensemble as Rudolph’s hand percussion tends to the boundaries between sections. The point does not seem to be mixing cultural elements so much as appreciating the fact that they can coexist. The result is a series of individually exquisite passages that don’t quite hold together.
Focus And Field: Tsuzumi; Focus And Field; Mu Wi. (45:11)
Personnel: Adam Rudolph, handrumset; Sumie Maneko, vocal, koto, shamisen; Stephanie Griffin, viola; Kaoru Watanabe, shinobue, noh kan, fue, percussion; gamin, piri, saenghwang; Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon; Ned Rothenberg, shakuhachi, bass clarinet; Ivan Barenboim, B-flat clarinet, contra-alto clarinet; Michel Gentile, C flute, alto flute, bass flute, bamboo flute.