Farmers By Nature bandleader and drummer Gerald Cleaver wrote the brief liner notes to his group’s record, Out of This World’s Distortions. They begin with this sentence: “Craig, William and I are trying to get to the root of things (no pun intended).”
Yet, upon taking another look, one discovers on the album cover itself a photograph of trees and on the inside, underneath the liner notes, a shadow of the head on a marble statue perhaps of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the wilderness, and, underneath the disc, a panoramic view of tree tops obviously photographed from the ground. Roots are implied in these images. Roots of trees…roots of nature...roots of improvised music…the very origins of growth and development which portend a certain solemn beauty of sound.
The trio of Craig Taborn on piano, William Parker on bass and Cleaver on drums presents a unique statement. The piano gives lightness to the heaviness of Parker and Cleaver’s combined tone that pulls it out of the ground. A strong basis for the music is repetition, no arpeggios and little tendency towards decoration. In other words, this is serious work, as in tilling-the-soil work.
Delicacy does not escape the stream as is demonstrated in Cleaver’s touch with the mallets to the toms or sticks to the cymbals, and Taborn’s tickling of the treble notes and sturdy phrasing on the piano, or even in Parker’s sure-fingered pizzicato and bowing that draws out a sinewy resilience from the bass strings. The delicacy is not without intention and matches the directness of the rest of the music.
Communicated throughout Out of This World’s Distortions is a sense of onward-ness. There is no stopping the transmission of the straightforward musical message heard in every solo and every thoroughly integrated collaboration among the threesome. The message begins with a quiet celebration of Chicago sax player Fred Anderson, who passed away the day before this album was recorded, and ends with a wave of a march that gradually fades away into the distance in the actual playing, not by means of mastering in the studio.
copyright 2011 Lyn Horton
Track listing: For Fred Anderson; Tait's Traced Traits; Out Of This World's Distortions Grow Aspens And Other Beautiful Things; Sir Snacktray Speaks; Cutting's Gait; Mud, Mapped.