Mole – RGB (2014)

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The crux of Mole has always been the musical connection between its pianist/primary composer Mark Aanderud and drummer Hernan Hecht, but the secret to their continuous reinvention lies in the rotating cast of musicians who complete the band. For Mole’s first Rare Noise Record release What Is The Meaning? (2011), the duo became a quartet with the addition of guitarist David Gilmore and acoustic bassist Jorge “Luri” Molina. That record presented a fusion band that cleverly borrowed from an assortment of forward-thinking groups across the realm of jazz, post-rock and electronic indie rock (even though Mole is more acoustic oriented than ‘electronic’ themselves).

For this second release from Rare Noise Records, RGB (out December 8, 2014) goes further out to the frontier by scaling back. Out goes Gilmore and Molina and in comes New York-based Japanese bass wunderkind Stomu Takeishi. Takeishi always seems to show up whenever cutting edge jazz figures are making records, from composers and leaders such as Henry Threadgill, Satoko Fujii and Cuong Vu. Mole fits comfortably within that company.

That’s especially true of the Mole that showed up on RGB, an album that puts a greater weight on group improv, and often manages to do this right alongside Aanderud’s introspective, unwinding melodies. Such a melody is played during “Sub-All,” a song that subsists on the flow, ebbing and receding like the tide. Takeishi integrates his bass so fully with Aanderud’s piano, the two sound as one. “Reasons” is mathematical funk where unexpectedly, the bass diverges from the main groove at times. During Aanderud’s piano solo, other two are partially soloing while comping, refusing to allow the tight, dense rhythmic pattern to stiffen the groove.

Takeishi solos sublimely over Hecht’s drum ‘n’ bass beats on “Freelance” making great use of space, but Aanderud strong melody soon takes over. “Cold Sweat” drumming calisthenics are applied to Bad Plus inspired harmonics for “”Rodriguez,” and Aanderud’s sharp, Corea-styled piano phrasing leads a tight, three-way interplay during “Wix.”

A couple of performances are true group-composed improvisations. “Trichromatic” opens with what seems like a free jazz rumination on piano evolve into a harmonic figure and then deconstructs again. Eventually, the song reforms into a different, more malleable and wistful shape. “T. Overlap” is desolate and spacy, too, thanks to the background electro effects.

On the last album, Mole showed they could work well as a four-piece band. As a three-piece band they succeed again with RGB, for mostly different reasons. By fully accommodating Stomu Takeishi while remaining true to themselves, Mole is renewed and the ten-year partnership between Mark Aanderud and Hernan Hecht is nowhere close to running out of steam.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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