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Taylor Haskins – trumpet
Andrew Rathbun – saxophone
Matt Pavolka – bass
Tom Rainey – drums
Recorded August 19-20, 2015 at SYSTEMS II, Brooklyn
Engineered by Michael Marciano
Mixed and Mastered by Taylor Haskins
Produced by Koshkil Records
Andrew Rathbun uses D’Addario reeds and products.
01 WAKE UP CALL – Taylor Haskins
02 SKWONK – THAR
03 GO AHEAD AND TRY TO HAVE A CONVERSATION ONLINE – Andrew Rathbun
04 SKWAAK – THAR
05 SLOW VIGNETTE – Andrew Rathbun
06 GLANCE – Taylor Haskins
07 SKWEEK – THAR
08 DO NOT CALL LIST – Andrew Rathbun
09 SKWERT – THAR
10 MARCH – THAR
11 SUN DOGS – Taylor Haskins
Andrew Rathbun Compositions, Broatch Music, SOCAN
Taylor Haskins Compositions, BMI
NOTES ON THE RECORDING
Essential to what makes THAR unique is the resonant combination of the players, whose individual backgrounds encompass a wide range of styles, from straight-ahead/mainstream originals to standards to unvarnished experimental works. Spearheaded by trumpeter Taylor Haskins and reed player Andrew Rathbun, the decision to bring on board drummer Tom Rainey and bassist Matt Pavolka has proved to be musically rewarding, an album full of welcomed surprises.
The genesis of THAR suggests a rather modest beginning. “There’ s not a huge story,” Rathbun states. “Just two guys who have been doing projects together as musicians and even producers on each other’s records for years and years.” Those projects - which have included Rathbun’s first albums Scatter Some Stones and Jade, as well as Haskins’ Wake Up Call and Metaview - showcased each musician’s varied artistry and compositional reach, with music often laced with extended, storytelling nuances. To complement their respective playing and composing styles, each of them have had a flair for sprinkling their rosters with a tantalizing array of complementary instrumentalists, at times offering the selective, well-placed vocal touch.
“We’ve gone in different directions,” Rathbun adds, “but always wanted to do a project like [THAR] together. And given the vibe, we wanted Tom Rainey to play drums, and our old friend Matt Pavolka, who is a New York vet and an amazing player and improvisor.” To set stage, Rathbun and Haskins’ saw this project as a kind of “road less traveled” venture that could only enhance their uncanny, continually unfolding chemistry. “The idea was a lot of free pieces,” the saxist notes, “interspersed with a few of mine and a few of Taylors.”
In fact, of the ten titles here, three come from Haskins’ pen, including a revisit to what now could be considered a freer extension of his already playful, fanciful “Wake Up Call,” THAR’s first piece turbo-charged with Rainey and Pavolka’s fiery, introductory dialogs. Haskins’ “Glance” offers a gentle refrain from THAR’s at times prevalent rambunctious energy on the group-composed pieces, making the soothing front line of trumpeter and saxist all that much more distinctive.
Rathbun’s four contributions include familiar signature touches in remote ways that can border on the sardonic, unexpected and, at times, as with the graceful closer, “Slow Vignette,” gentler and rhapsodic, showcasing the signature interplay between Haskins and Rathbun, this time on tenor. Likewise with Haskins’ “Sun Dogs,” as the trumpeter plays his mute ever so intimately next to Rathbun’s plaintive tenor. The playful “Go Ahead” finds Rathbun’s pen ideally aligned with the trumpeter’s talents, once again, setting up an ideal counterpoint to the composer’s, who, this time, can be heard sporting his soprano. Mention should be made of Rainey’s closing brushwork, evoking the sound of a soft rain against a windowpane.
All said, though, as the three band-derived, onomatopoeic “free pieces” suggest, the slow-burning furnace implicit within the heart of THAR is one of unfettered experimentation, a spirit that gives each player room to explore their respective instruments in a cohesive, deep-listening environment. In other words, as Rathbun flat-out states, “We wanted to do something way looser, less scripted, much more roiling and frothier.”
As for the six-year incubation, Rathbun alludes to production issues, but that when he and Haskins went back to the tapes, “we listened to the tracks where [those production issues didn’t exist] and decided it was worth a second look.”
As for the drummer and bassist, Rathbun has nothing but praise for them both. “Tom is a really special cat. I really wanted to involve him in something of mine. He has a singular approach like no other. I am still in complete awe of what he played on ‘Wake Up Call.’”
And Mr. Pavolka? “Matt is a New York stalwart,” Rathbun restates. “[His] own projects are super-inspiring. Matt can do anything; play wild and free and play standards. We have done a few things together over the years and I’ve always wanted to get him on one of my recording projects.”
All said, fans of all four artists won’t be disappointed. But, for the ever-versatile Rathbun, how does the reedist/composer THAR (recorded over two days at Systems II in Brooklyn) align with the growing catalog? “For me,” he casually concludes, “it’s just a documentation of another one of the many ways I like to make music.”
John Ephland, critic and author.