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.–

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