Art Lande - piano, drums; Mark Isham - trumpet, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer; Special guest:; Darol Anger - violin
This arresting, free-spirited collaboration between pianist Art Lande and trumpeter Mark Isham rekindles the near-telepathic chemistry of their two mid-'70s ECM quartet albums under the band name Rubisa Patrol (1976's Rubisa Patrol and 1977's Desert Marauders) while also serving as a precursor to their singularly expressive 1987 duet project on ECM, We Begin. With Isham alternating blowing plaintive trumpet tones and providing sonic seasoning on synthesizer, the criminally under-recognized Lande (a pianist who at the time was every bit as evocative, inventive, and inspired as his labelmate Keith Jarrett, though garnering a miniscule amount of press by comparison) summons up rhapsodic and passionate work at the keyboard. Together they forge a formidable alliance at the GAMH, which comes across as a great synthesis of jazz and esoteric ambiance-ethereal and cerebral yet accessible and teeming with the sound of surprise.
Offering no song titles or introductions, Lande and Isham take the Great American Music Hall stage and dive headlong into a deeply probing, free flowing set that straddles thoughtful motifs and pure improvisation. They open on a chilling note with a provocative improv dance between Lande's spacious piano (with the sustain pedal fully engaged to let notes ring throughout the cavernous hall) and Isham's chiming Fender Rhodes electric piano. This sparsely delicate duet eventually morphs into an opulent theme with Isham providing ambient sound washes on synthesizer behind Lande's melodic piano. Isham then enters on trumpet, blowing bold, long tones on top of Lande's staccato stabs at the piano, and a bristling call-and-response dialogue ensues. Lande, who kept a small drum set next to his piano, enters the conversation on his kit midway through, grooving on his ride cymbal with his right hand while maintaining a strong left hand ostinato as Isham takes off into the stratosphere with a freewheeling improvisation before their musical journey settles into a delicate, lyrical hymn with Isham blowing warm, poignant flugelhorn tones on top of Lande's sparse piano. The lengthy opening suite (21:30) continues with Isham switching to muted trumpet and blowing tender, long tones while Lande wails passionately in Cecil Tayloresque fashion underneath. It culminates with some expressive trumpet work by Isham over a driving groove laid down by Lande-a great synthesis of jazz and esoteric ambiance.
Their second piece is a restful duet that highlights Isham's beautifully lyrical playing and Lande's deeply probing and tender accompaniment on piano. Their third piece is a buoyant, borderline new age-y number that has Isham blowing expressive lines over Lande's Copland-esque heartland-ish accompaniment. Lande again enters on the drums towards the end of this engaging piece to provide some rhythmic thrust before it resolves in gentle fashion with Isham and Lande working their kindred magic.
The fourth piece is a luminous evocative solo piano offering from Lande that teeters into Keith Jarrett Koln Concert territory. Isham gets his own solo showcase on track five. Following an ambient soundscape created by use of electronics and looping technology (and with Lande banging on his piano for percussive effect), he launches into a haunting, unaccompanied reading of Ornette Coleman's mournful "Lonely Woman" on flugelhorn.
Track six has Lande momentarily switching to Fender Rhodes electric piano and engaging in a spiky improv duet with Isham's trumpet. They follow with a beautifully lyrical, strictly composed duet, which is perhaps their most affecting number of the set, before launching into a highly impressionist rendition of the oft-covered jazz standard, "Body and Soul," a piece that Coleman Hawkins established as part of the jazz vernacular with his timeless version from 1939. Lande's playing here is frisky and swinging, with stride piano traces coming through. And Isham responds with some compelling, intuitive expressions as Lande deconstructs this familiar theme. For an encore, they are joined by San Francisco-based violinist Darol Anger, a founding member of the Windham Hill quartet Montreux.
A native New Yorker (born February 5, 1947), Lande parlayed his classical studies and love of Bill Evans into a singular piano voice. After studying at Williams College, he moved to San Francisco in 1969, and became something or a regional hero there through the '70s. He recorded with saxophonist Jan Garbarek and trumpeter TedCurson in 1973, before forming the Rubisa Patrol quartet, which had its self-titled debut in 1976. They had an acclaimed followup in 1997's Desert Marauders and the band garnered something of a cult following over the next few years. After disbanding the Rubisa Patrol in 1983, Lande moved to Switzerland, where he taught for three years. Returning to the States, he relocated to Colorado in 1987, and continued collaborating through the '80s and '90s with such creative artists as trumpeters Isham and Ron Miles, multi-reed player Paul McCandless, saxophonist Fred Hess, guitarist Jerry Hahn, and new age pioneer George Winston. Lande continues to record as a leader and last year appeared on saxophonist Bruce Williamson's Standard Transmission, a renegade project full of clever extrapolations on familiar themes.
Also a native New Yorker, trumpeter/synth programmer Isham (born September 7, 1951) studied classical music as a child, performing on trumpet, piano and violin. After his family moved to San Francisco, he became immersed in rock and jazz, and particularly the '70s electronic experiments of his trumpet playing idol Miles Davis. Leaving classical music behind, he toured and recorded with the San Francisco-based R&B-flavored pop band the Sons of Champlain before hooking up with Art Lande in 1976 in Rubisa Patrol. Isham worked with jazz icons Pharoah Sanders and Charles Lloyd during the late '70s while also doing pop sessions with the Beach Boys and Van Morrison. He had his own debut as a leader in 1983 (Vapor Drawings on Windham Hill). He recorded prolifically as a sideman and leader through the '80s (including sessions for Was Not Was, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, and Willie Nelson) and by the early '90s was well established as a prolific film score composer with such soundtracks as Little Man Tate, Billy Bathgate, Public Eye, River Runs Through It, Of Mice and Men, Fire in the Sky, Quiz Show, Losing Isaiah, Blade and October Sky to his credit. His 1999 Columbia recording, Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project, was a return to his fusion roots. He continued to rack up innumerable soundtrack credits in the next decade (Racing Stripes, Crash, Running Scared, among many others), occasionally coming up for air to record as a sideman on projects for the likes of Mariannne Faithfull, Lyle Lovett, Chris Isaak, and George Winston.
This 1983 collaboration between Lande and Isham documented both artists at the peak of their expansive creativity and envelope-pushing experimentalism. (Milkowski)