Monday, March 21, 2011

Travis Reuter: Sound And Vision

Travis Reuter (guitar, electronics)
Rotational Templates (New Focus Recordings)
Jeremy Viner (sax)
Bobby Avey (fender rhodes)
Chris Tordini (bass)
Jason Nazary (drums)

Rotational Templates is a record that could disrupt the order of things in 2011. Travis Reuter, a classically trained guitarist but you wouldn't be able to tell by this dazzling and inventive array of tracks   that his group have assembled.

Travis Reuter delivers a some great compositional structure and improvisation mixed with the sheer joy of exploring different sound worlds throughout this debut. In Rotational Templates you can hear echoes of fusion and experimentalist greats like Miles, John McLaughlin and Derek Bailey. On the opener, "Vacancy At 29", Reuter allows the group (especially Chris Tordini's funky basslines) to really set the stage as he manipulates the sound around the outside. Reuter has a band that has played together for awhile and appears know each other's next move. Bobby Avey adds the '70s ethereal element with some superb work on the Fender Rhodes. Reuter rises up in decibel and displays some very complex harmonic structures that are rich, dense and mesmerizing.

"Residency At 20 (Parts 1 and 2)" show two distinct sides of Reuter's compositional thinking. Part 1 focuses more on deep exchanges between Avey and Reuter. They have a real connection of investigation rhythmic patterns and sound that gives "Residency At 20" a Bitches Brew feel to it (e.g. "John McLaughlin"). Part 2 is more of a group effort with Viner really coming to the forefront. There's a lot of improvising happening but it remains in a well placed groove that is impressive and fast paced. "Flux Derivatives" starts in a multi-layered pattern and slowly moves into more midtempo structure all the while seeing Viner and Avey laying down some intricate almost psychedelic beats.

Rotational Templates (listen to tracks from the album) is a remarkable and rewarding debut from a talent young guitarist and composer thinking well outside the box. Like Mary Halvorson, Travis Reuter is definitely an artist you should be looking out for in 2011.

Travis Reuter delivers soundscapes, experimentation and a vision that is equally challenging as it is exciting to experience. This is definitely part of our top albums of the year for sure. Highly Recommended!

JazzWrap caught up with Travis Reuter recently to ask a few questions.

While your background is both jazz and classical, there seem to be elements of minimalism and experimental rock simmering just underneath. Is this something you wanted to add to the recording?
I can’t really think of any minimalist or experimental rock musicians that I am directly influenced by. I do love effects pedals and sound manipulation, though, and I enjoy experimenting and finding new ways to incorporate noise and signal processing into my playing and writing.
Were there artists or albums that inspired you on the more experimental/improvisational side?
Evan Parker’s Six of One, The Derek Bailey/Evan Parker duo album Arch Duo, Tyshawn Sorey, Tim Berne and his groups, Anthony Braxton and Andrew Cyrille’s albums Duo Palindromes vol. 1 and vol. 2, Little Women’s album Throat.
We are big fans of Bobby Avey's work. Have you worked with him for a long time? What effect did he and the rest of the band add to Rotational Templates?
I have played with Bobby since 2008; we have played a lot together, and he has played with my band since 2009, when it was in its earliest formation. I played a gig with his group last year that was challenging and very musically rewarding. He also uses Chris Tordini and Jeremy Viner in his group from time to time, so there is some group chemistry on the album. I really respect his playing and writing, and I can trust him with any musical decisions he makes while playing my music. He has his own harmonic and rhythmic approach, and really adds a lot to any playing situation he is in.
The compositional and improvisational structure of the album seems to be a group effort. How would you describe the writing process?
With each piece I try to experiment with a new concept that focuses on form and rhythm. I feel that this is most obvious in Singular Arrays (track 3). In Singular Arrays, the first half of the piece, up until the drum solo, is an exploration of the balance and relationship between post-tonal theory and tonality over a form that is in a perpetual state of transformation. In the opening section of the piece, the written material switches back and forth from tone rows to tonal centers, while containing an immense amount of rhythmic counterpoint. After the drum solo, I wanted the piece to have a solo section, for the piano, that contained notated material for the bass and tenor sax, so that they would be aiding in both the development of the composition and the improvised solo, and from this, there is an established continuity between the written material and the improvisation. The piece ends with a re-capitulation of the drum solo section for a guitar solo. By reworking an already introduced form this way, I am seeking to give the compositional arc of the piece an evolutionary character.
Have you been listening to or reading anything that is pushing your creativity forward?
The Peter Evans quartet cd Live in Lisbon, and the Evan Parker cd Scenes in the House of Music. Last week I saw Fieldwork play at the Jazz Gallery, and the week before I saw the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) play the music of Mario Davidovsky at Miller Theater. I am trying to check out as much live music as possible right now. In addition, I am always revisiting old cds that to me are constant sources of inspiration. These include: Steve Lehman’s Demian as Posthuman and On Meaning, Vijay Iyer’s Blood Sutra, Ben Monder’s Excavation, and many others.

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