Tag Archives: Greg Ward

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

CHARLES RUMBACK – Two Kinds Of Art Thieves (CF 152)
Drummer Charles Rumback’s music is informed by a mild detachment that over the 49 minutes of this CD translates into a kind of gently impassive mood. This makes me picture an extremely controlled person who would not react badly even if someone came and hammered his big toe. The quartet, which features bassist Jason Ajemian and saxophonists Joshua Sclar (tenor) and Greg Ward (alto), moves elegantly and effortlessly, a sluggishly meditative observation of the outside world from an attic’s window. The parallel reeds leave lots of spaces to drums and bass, not only to sustain and dictate the pace but also for having a go in the thematic propositions. Slow swing or sparse pulse belong to the main rules’ list, the musicians looking both pensive and totally unflustered. It’s a bit of a mystery. I detect a lack of significant action: no bloodshed, no trace of sufferance whatsoever. Still, one can’t really say that the record is not agreeable. The decisive factor might reside in the group’s ability in maintaining a cool atmosphere, a late-night reflection deprived of several of the commonplaces typically coupled with this sort of pensiveness. All things considered, this is nothing but an unspectacularly polite jazz album.

Paris Transatlantic review by Clifford Allen

Charles Rumback – Two kinds of Art Thieves  (CF 152)
There has long been an interesting cross-pollination between Chicago’s younger jazz and improvising musicians and the “post-rock” scene that developed in the early 1990s, out of bands like Tortoise and The Sea and Cake. Chicago’s Thrill Jockey label has hosted releases from Rob Mazurek’s Chicago Underground projects and Exploding Star Orchestra (one of which was a collaboration with trumpeter-composer Bill Dixon), as well as veterans Fred Anderson and drummer Robert Barry. Stalwart Chi-town blues and jazz label Delmark has, likewise, released the music of Mazurek and Tortoise’s Jeff Parker alongside more strictly “jazz” young lions. Less well-known than some of his peers, percussionist Charles Rumback (originally from Wichita, Kansas) is one of the busiest avant-rock sidemen in the area, playing with L’altra, Via Tania, and the ambient-improvisation duo Colorlist; Two Kinds of Art Thieves is his debut as a leader.
One might expect the gauzy, filmic textures of Colorlist to work their way into Rumback’s quartet music, so it’s somewhat surprising that Art Thieves is decidedly a jazz record, though the emphasis is on spare group improvisation. Rumback is joined here by alto saxophonist Greg Ward and tenorman Josh Sclar (and for two tracks, bassist Jason Ajemian) on six original compositions. Ten years ago, when Rumback was based in Lawrence, Kansas, his approach showed the influence of such diverse but equally intense sources as Brian Blade, Ben Perowsky and Han Bennink. The antics of bash have given way to a disappearing act, the drummer making laconic use of brushes and sleigh-bells, continually piling up economies around dovetailing alto and tenor. Sclar and Ward are an updated, free-time analogue to Warne Marsh and Gary Foster, cotton purrs and squeals merging into a singular voice. On “Manifesto,” gooey long tones from Ajemian’s bass bolster the pair as Rumback knits the air with mallets and bells. “Four Ruminations” merges slinky repetition in a dark groove behind the saxophonists’ unkempt keening, Ward’s alto rising quickly out of the ambience to chortle and declaim. One couldn’t ask for a stronger debut, and Two Kinds of Art Thieves is a welcome addition to the landscape of young Chicago improvisation.–

Point of Deaparture review by Art Lange

Charles Rumback – Two Kinds Of Art Thieves (CF 152)
Ambient jazz? Post-prog-improv? Not to suggest that Chicago-based drummer Charles Rumback and cohorts have devised a new genre, but there’s a curious stylistic vibe at play here, part gravitational pull and part tectonic drift, that defies the usual categories. Four of the six pieces are credited to Rumback – a youthful veteran of electronica duos, fantasy-folk-rock co-ops, and free jazz forays – but nothing seems crafted or arranged; if anything, simple strategies for spontaneous give-and-take result in an equality of ensemble responsibility. Don’t expect head-and-solo “songs” (as the composer credit calls them) – instead, Rumback and saxophonists Greg Ward (alto) and Joshua Sclar (tenor) construct crossfire schemes in arcs of flowing counterpoint. Sclar and Ward are insistently complementary rather than confrontational (more in the mode of a mellow Marsh and Konitz than an excitable Ammons and Stitt, while sounding nothing at all like either pair), and though over the course of a gradual crescendo may grow briefly agitated (as in the opening “Ice Factory”) inevitably return to a calm, casual, albeit quizzical, demeanor. “Four Ruminations” epitomizes their relationship; as Sclar sets down a snaky ostinato, Ward squalls above, then they switch roles. The prevalent mood is one of tempered lyricism, so the drama that emerges comes from their reciprocity; Rumback is prone to understatement –sustained rolling patterns and nuanced accents – and bassist Jason Ajemian limits himself to harmonic grounding in his sporadic appearances. If, on occasion, it seems as if they are a bit overly cautious, chalk it up to generational preference. Some new influences are at work here.

All About Jazz Italy review by Enrico Bettinello

Charles Rumback – Two Kinds of Art Thieves (CF 152)
Che la scena creativa di Chicago sia ricchissima di talento è un fatto piuttosto risaputo, anche se non va dimenticato che da sempre la Windy City ha trovato anche in giornalisti, associazioni e etichette di tutto il mondo un’attenzione sempre viva: ne è un esempio questo disco della portoghese Clean Feed a nome del batterista Charles Rumback [componente della Lightbox Orchestra di Fred Longberg-Holm], musicista che in questa prima prova da leader ha voluto con sé – in una tipica conformazione a due sassofoni e senza strumento armonico – l’altrettanto sconosciuto Joshua Sclar al tenore e due promesse ormai affermate come l’altista Greg Ward e il contrabbassista Jason Ajemian.

Le sei composizioni del disco esplorano differenti mood e interazioni collettive, ma con una certa propensione all’astrazione che si affida troppo alla sensibilità dei singoli componenti e sembra invece un po’ meno consistente dal punto di vista dell’efficacia espressiva. Non è tanto la mancanza di temi significativi, quanto piuttosto una sorta di continuo vagare esecutivo la cosa che rende il disco meno interessante di quanto potrebbe: i musicisti sono in sintonia [Ward in particolare ha sempre uno sguardo armonico lucido e tagliente] ma il lavoro non ci sembra troppo coinvolgente e non ha l’immediatezza che può avere – tanto per rifarsi a un esempio molto vicino – il quartetto di Mike Reed.

La profonda sintesi dei tanti elementi in gioco [le tradizioni cui Rumback fa riferimento sono chiaramente molte e complesse] viene giocata infatti sul piano di una sensibilità coloristica e angolosa che rimane come sospesa sopra le inquietudini del presente. Non se ne lascia toccare se non dentro una cornice artistica definita e poco immediata e questo, nel mare delle uscite discografiche e web, rischia di non centrare l’obbiettivo.
Comunque una buona band.

Gapplegate review by Grego Edwards

Charles Rumback – Two Kinds of Art Thieves (CF 152)

Drummer Charles Rumback and his Freely Mellow Quartet
Charles Rumback has a new quartet recording out on CD called, interestingly enough, Two Kinds of Art Thieves (Clean Feed). He is joined for this session by Jason Ajemian on bass, Joshua Sclar on tenor sax and Greg Ward on the alto.

This is free improvisation of a decidedly vital yet introspective nature. The two sax interplay of Ward and Sclar is quite interesting and effective. They work together well; the two weave lines in tandem in ways that show they are keenly listening to one another and responding in kind.

This is not music that overwhelms with its intensity, nor is it meant to be. What it does do is create an atmosphere of somewhat somber, sensitive group music making. It will not overawe you. But if you approach it on its own terms it will offer a world of meditative improvisation that many will find quite attractive.

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

CF 152Charles Rumback – Two Kinds of Art Thieves (CF 152)
El batería de Chicago Charles Rumback ha publicado Two Kinds of Art Thieves acompañado por el contrabajista Jason Ajemian, y los saxofonistas Joshua Sclar y Greg Ward. Tal y como ocurre con sus carreras, la música de este estreno discográfico recoge referencias ajenas al jazz tan variadas como el post-rock y la electrónica. Aunque la formación de dos saxos, contrabajo y batería pudiera invocar otro tipo de propuestas, la música de Charles Rumback tiene un carácter impresionista en la que los músicos juegan con unos elementos que aunque en algún momento pudieran parecer insignificantes (por su volumen, por su expresividad), se transforman en los protagonisas centrales de una música llena de detalles construidos a partir de unos componentes mínimos. Otra joya más a añadir al catálogo de Clean Feed. http://www.tomajazz.com/bun/2009/11/charles-rumback-two-kinds-of-art.html

Free Jazz review by Stef

CF 152Charles Rumback – Two Kinds Of Art Thieves (CF 152)
Clean Feed really is the label that spots most of the upcoming talent: here again, Chicagoan drummer Charles Rumback gets a chance for his debut release with a band consisting of the double sax front of Joshua Sclar on tenor and Greg Ward on alto, and with Jason Ajemian on double bass. The music is interesting for a variety of reasons. First, because the compositions integrate elements of a non-jazz origin easily, in a typical post-modern fashion (is that what he means by the one kind of art thieve in the title?). Second, because the music is totally unlike what you would expect from a drummer, whose role is fully in support of the two horns that slowly build the music. I almost wrote “reducing his role”, but that’s not the case: the accents, the rumblings, the rolls, play a quite important part in the overall atmosphere, adding color and drama to the slowly evolving dialogues rather than rhythmic support. The music itself is impressionistic, very gentle and sensitive to sound quality, with the saxes playing almost without air pressure, like a light breeze, barely touching you, but touching you all the same. But not only Ward and Sclar, but also Ajemian’s arco is precize and pure. Things get a little more agitated with “Four Ruminations”, on which a mid-tempo repetitive sax riff is the core around which the rest of the music evolves, but with the next track the now familiar calm development returns. Rumback managed to create his own voice with a first release : subtle and sensitive, with lots of attention to the overall sound, really sounding like the early impressionist painters : you still see the figures, but barely, the apparently random soft colors create a shining and warm vision, which becomes the dominant feeling of the listening experience.

Ejazznews review by Glenn Astarita

CF 152Charles Rumback – Two Kinds of Art Thieves (CF 152)
On his debut solo effort, drummer Charles Rumback and fellow proponents of Chicago’s fertile progressive-jazz and improvisational scene bypass conventional norms throughout this curiously interesting endeavor. Somewhat animated in scope, the music iterated here features the dual sax attack of Joshua Sclar (tenor) and Greg Ward (alto), all firmed up by bassist Jason Ajemian’s loose and pliant bottom-end. 

The quartet varies the overall pitch with either riotous free-form interplay or when engaged in probing choruses, enamored by the saxophonists’ yearning lines and soulful exchanges. However, it’s not just a knockdown, drag-out, free-jazz blowing session by any stretch. In effect, the musicians think more about artistic expression, as opposed to embarking upon a relentless pursuit of technical bravado.

During many of these climactically engineered passages, Rumback executes lightly rolling tom patterns to present an expansive backdrop for the soloists’ lyrically rich phrasings, often coated with vocal attributes. They dive into cavernous lows, and sonorous theme-building exercises, while traversing through hidden valleys and occasionally into movements that spark notions of a self-healing process. But they up the ante with a keen sense of the dynamic. And they finalize the set with a buoyant jazz dirge motif on “We Left Green Briar Park.” Loaded with gusto and verve, Rumback also layers a transcendental aura within these pieces. It’s music with a distinct persona, unlike many other offerings of this ilk.