Through Thick and Thin

frank rosaly’s bootstrap @ the whistler, 26 June 2012.

Frank Rosaly’s Bootstrap.

The pleasures of improvisatory jazz often come in slow-building moments. Such was the case during the first set of drummer Frank Rosaly‘s show with his band Bootstrap at the Whistler’s Relax Attack Jazz Series. Concluding a weekly residency for the month of June, the band skittered around the edge of interesting sounds for a time. Then something began to build. At a steady, dirge-like tempo, piano/synthesizer player Jim Baker started assembling dreamy cumulus clouds of cluster chords in various shapes. Their scale was large, implacable, geospatial, epic: a huge sky— wide open. But within this uncluttered atmosphere, the other musicians—Rosaly, saxophonist Mars Williams, bassist Nathan McBride—darted, dove, whirled, circled, and recircled, creating a frenetic, busy, almost chaotic interaction of sounds. Taken all together, it was a remarkable and surprising mix, at once airy and dense, active and still, full of tension and at repose.

Rosaly describes the group as a way to explore his Puerto Rican roots, particularly his recent studies of bomba and plena music. What was fascinating about the first set at the Whistler was that Bootstrap had captured bomba and plena’s combinations of, on the one hand, velocity and complexity, and, on the other, a kind of suspended grace. Only it was as if this percussion-driven rhythmic magic trick had been transposed to the harmonic plane, abstracted and etherealized but no less powerful for the shift. “How are they doing this?” one thought as it happened, pulled in to the song and flung out of it into a sense of music as a high wire act most daring when most at ease. Relax attack indeed.


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