Charles Rumback

June Holiday
(Astral Spirits)

Drummer Charles Rumback is the sort of musician who makes Chicago’s scene tick. He’s a sublimely versatile player who consistently but quietly lifts up every session he’s involved in. Over the years, he’s led a variety of groups, but this agile trio with pianist Jim Baker and bassist John Tate is proving to be his most profound.

June Holiday is the group’s least aggressive, but the leader frequently builds in an exquisite sense of tension, pitting surface placidity against rumbling anxiety. All three musicians contribute tunes here, and most of them convey a distinct ballad-like feel. The tunefulness comes in spare, single-note tangles: Overtones hang in the air only to be juddered by spasmodic clusters of cymbals and toms, summoning something far more meaningful than an unabashed love song or a freak-out. Baker has been a key fixture on the Chicago scene for decades and June Holiday arguably could stand as his most impressive performance on a recording. His opening “Foglights” is suitably hazy, with Rumback’s sensitive, shuffling brushwork underlining a Herbie Nichols vibe, while the darting, broken-glass figures the pianist brings to “Huh?” evoke the sound of early Cecil Taylor—an off-kilter but unapologetic sense of swing pushing even the most abstract phrases forward.

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