Shoup/Burns/Radding/Campbell – The Levitation Shuffle (CF 073)
From the ’70s onward, free improvisation in the U.S. has always depended on regional scenes to provide vital outposts. This recording features reed player Wally Shoup, one of the stalwarts of free playing on the fringes. In the early ’80s he was part of a Birmingham, Alabama-based collective along with Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith. But since the mid ’80s, he’s been based in the Seattle area, serving as both organizer, mentor, and creative focal point. This recording captures a studio session with Shoup, long-time collaborators Reuben Radding (originally from Seattle but nowbased in N.Y.) and Greg Campbell, as well as young pianist Gust Burns. The reeds, piano, bass, and drums lineup draws connections to the Free Jazz vocabulary, but the four musicians are more aligned with the extensions of European free improvisation. The collective improvisations have a flow based less on a pulse-based trajectory than it does on the shifting, overlapping courses charted by the players. Shoup’s acidic alto provides a commanding focus; slipping from keening cries to gruff, insistently stabbing vigor to shredded overtones. Burns plays with an angular abstraction leavened with an effective, light touch. His sheets of notes break in brittle shards against Radding’s muscular free melodicism. Campbell skitters around his kit, tempering thundering energy with the multi-textured sound of small percussion instruments. Over the course of the set, the group drives toward a potent collective sound. It’s hard to believe that this is their first meeting. Based on this session it is a setting that shows plenty of potential for further explorations.