Transit – Quadrologues (CF 143)
There’s something pleasantly round about the music made by the quartet Transit. The group’s conjures notions of transportation, but their music feels more vehicular, more about the means of movement than some application of the old jazz saw of “going places.” They are more like a close shot on the “going” itself — more gerund than noun.
Drummer Jeff Arnal assembled the band for the 2006 release Transit (in time-tested fashion, the first album’s title becomes the name of the band) and here they hone their approach, tighten their focus, amplify their intent. Despite their base of operation, and even their naming a track for New York’s subway system (“Z train”), they seem more akin to Montreal’s smaller underground transit with it’s big, spoke wheels and rubber tires. The Métro de Montréal trains move more quietly, and invite observation of their means of movement, whereas the Z train hides its tiny, noisy wheels behind a skirt of metal. The Métro invites us to gaze upon its wheels, the roundness, the spokes, the mechanics. They move, they blur, they slow, they stop, their big bicycle wheels doing yeoman’s work. There’s something deceptive about them: the rubber tires so puncturable, the spokes too thin, it seems they’d break under the weight of hundreds of commuters, a split axle in the middle of the tracks like a child’s toy racecar, immobilized and never to be repaired.
But the Métro doesn’t stop in its tracks, and neither does this quartet, a classic “pianoless” ensemble à la Ornette. They are, they seem, sturdy, round and spoked. Reuben Radding’s bass at times rumbles to speaker-shaking depths behind an exciting horn section of shining star Nate Wooley on trumpet and Seth Misterka, a saxophonist deserving of much more notice. Together, they are in flux, in constant motion, in tempos more like undulating waves than machine guns or woodpeckers. They slow and speed up again (wait, make that more like a local train than an express!) with interconnections (spokes) happening more quickly sometimes than the ear (eye) can make out. The ten tracks seem to move past without pause, changing within as much as between. An exciting sort of dialogue, or quadrologue, spokes, bespoken.