We’ve firmly established a few things about Daniel Rosenboom from his Best of 2013 release Book of Omens: he’s a fearless composer, bandleader, and trumpet player who lunges headfirst into the frontiers of modern progressive jazz, making it his mission to craft something that’s both fresh and immediate. What we establish from his follow-up LP Fire Keeper is that his pursuit of what’s beyond that frontier doesn’t ever let up.
Not at all satisfied that Book of Omens is a high water mark never to be attained again, Rosenboom completely rebuilt his band: Gavin Templeton replaces Vinny Golia on woodwinds and flute, Alexander Noice replaces Jake Vossler on guitar, and Dan Schnelle replaces Matt Mayhall on drums. No one really replaces Tim LeFebvre’s electric bass, but Kai Kurosawa was brought in to provide his tap guitar artistry via a couple of custom axes called a “bear trax” and a “ziggy.” This is already getting interesting.
The last time around, Rosenboom placed a lot of sonic load on the metal growl of the electric guitar, and that doesn’t change here. Noice brings heavy riffs on most of Rosenboom’s nine originals, and even gets Nels Cline crazy when he temporarily demolishes the tight funk of “Seven on Seventh,” or pilots his solo through the difficult cadence of “Tendrils.” As before, Rosenboom — along with Templeton — artfully dodges around the guitar, combats it or plays in unison with it, but never sticks with any one strategy for long.
In reality, Kurosawa is occupying LeFebvre’s spot but with his tap guitars, he assumes the role of a Stickman player and using his instruments in that way lends a King Crimson sensibility at the mid-to-bottom end range to songs such as “Seventh” or “Tendrils.”
The progression to this album from the last one doesn’t rest entirely on the players, however. Rosenboom tightened up the compositions and performances even more; there are some impossibly knotted figures closely bound to rhythm on cuts like “Tadodaho” and “The Fifteenth Hour,” and he’s opened up to the beats and modes indigenous to places like the Balkans, Arabia and the Indian subcontinent, things that are evident right away from the slippery horn patterns found on the episodic first track “Leaving Moscow.” While these influences don’t dominate, they’re key ingredients in Rosenboom’s alchemy that discreetly puts his music just outside of the realm of what’s been attempted before.
There’s much more to what’s going on with Fire Keeper that I can fit into this space. The ornery trumpet playing over a tribal beat (“With Fire Eyes”) or the graceful, through-composed “Holiday Motel” are just two more quick examples. That’s Daniel Rosenboom for you…so full of ideas — good ideas — that it takes a while to absorb and even longer to fully describe. And little time needed to start enjoying.
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Fire Keeper is now on sale, courtesy of Rosenboom’s brand new record label, Orenda Records.
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