John Rapson Water And Blood

This is an inspiring record, well executed and thought provoking. This is a project based entirely on the improvisations of Billy Higgins, a mainstay of Ornette Coleman's first celebrated band. Rapson directed Higgins to improvise a series of five-minute pieces, some groove-oriented, some not. With the results, Rapson painstakingly overdubbed other instrumentalists to conform to Higgins's work, and the results are frequently amazing. First off, building structures based on the nuances of a master improviser like Higgins makes for some very unconventional song ideas. All the charts and solos pay attention to Higgins's every move, and everyone is imbued with Higgins' rhythm, but not in a straight time, or even a free, sense. Because this improvising is not collective, it flows entirely from what Higgins has recorded. The players - quite a large ensemble, featuring fellow Ornette alumnus Bobby Bradford and Vinny Golia (9 Winds Records' main man) - seem excited to be participating in this project and play consistently great solos. Rapson's charts are imaginative, drawing ideas from every drum hit and creating new colours with great instrument voicing - anyone who thinks drums can't be melodic should check this record out. Rapson doesn't shy away from the electronics either, showcasing some nicely dubbed-out guitar and a trumpet/delay intro to "Deft Purpose." This is a very experimental and accomplished record whose only fault may be some overly fussy arrangements accompanying Higgins Latin-esque improvs. Higgins heard the final results just prior to his death in 2000 and was reportedly surprised and delighted with the results. What a way to go. (9 Winds)