Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra – Ashcan Rantings (CF 203)
Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra has undergone considerable personnel changes since their 2007 debut, New Magical Kingdom (Clean Feed). For Ashcan Rantings, Lane’s original electro-acoustic septet has been replaced by a horn-heavy nonet (saxophonists David Bindman, Avram Fefer and Matt Bauder, trumpet players Nate Wooley and Taylor Ho Bynum, trombonists Reut Regev and Tim Vaughn, and drummer Igal Foni), with the leader’s occasionally amplified contrabass now the sole electronic instrument in the mix. Inspired by his studies with composer Earle Brown (renown for his improvised conduction method), Lane encourages his band members to create spontaneous orchestrations from predetermined melodic and rhythmic cells during thematic development sections, lending a vivacious unpredictability to his traditionally notated charts.
Expounding on his lavish themes and throbbing bass lines with ebullient verve, the band follows Lane’s mantra, espoused in the liner notes: “Regardless of its sonic character, it is music that is meant to be joyful to the ear and uplifting to the soul.” Channeling avant-blues fervor into spirited statements, Lane’s crew uses a variety of mutes and extended techniques in service of raw, soulful expressionism, updating past innovations with a modernistic flair. Lane deftly deploys the musicians, staging numerous cadenzas, duos and trios for soloists to convey their statements in more intimate settings, such as Wooley and Bynum’s coruscating trumpet exchange on “Desperate Incantations” and the expansive title track’s blustery trombone dialogue between Regev and Vaughn.
Clocking in at just over an hour and a half on two discs, the date contains a wealth of sonic diversions, from the austere lament introducing the otherwise jovial opener “Imaginary Portrait” to the jubilant collective coda of the euphonious closer “Bright Star Calyspo.” Although the hypnotic Middle-Eastern modality of “Marshall” contrasts with the regal Ellingtonian voicings that dominate the session, the brooding futuristic title track ranges even further afield, pitting Lane’s squalling, feedback-laced bass against Bauder’s bellowing baritone. Embracing numerous stylistic precedents, the schizophrenic “House of Elegant” juxtaposes avant-garde abstraction and streetwise funk, while the luxurious ballad “Lucia” exudes a different ambience entirely.
Carrying on the big band tradition with genuine conviction and steadfast leadership, Lane establishes himself as part of a continuum that includes such revered bandleaders as Charles Mingus, Muhal Richard Abrams and David Murray. An endlessly revealing set, Ashcan Rantings is easily one of the best records of the year.