Paul Rutherford/Sabu Toyozumi

The Conscience
NoBusiness Records NBCD 99

Paul Rutherford

in Backward Times (1979-2007)

Emanem 5045

Although one of the pioneers of solo improvising in a Free Music context, British trombonist Paul Rutherford (1940- 2007) made as important a contribution in group situations. Besides Iskra 1903 and membership in other regularly constituted aggregations, the trombonist performed with a wide variety of international partners and these CDs capture some distinctive live sets.

Recorded in Tokoname in 1999, The Conscience’s five improvisations feature Rutherford and Japanese drummer Sabu Toyozumi, a near contemporary, whose associations ranged from fellow Japanese like Kaoru Abe to foreigners like Derek Bailey and Fred Van Hove, some of whom also collaborated with the trombonist. Coincidentally The Japanese tracks fit neatly among those on in Backward Times which include a 1988 London duet with bassist Paul Rogers, another 2007 London meeting with pianist Veryan Weston and cellist Marcio Mattos and two continental solo sets, the earlier (1979) and more provocative of which from Milan has the trombonist working with electronics so that in essence he’s accompanying himself.

Simpatico from the beginning, Rutherford and Toyozumi establish a mutually acceptable groove and exploit it throughout. The drummer’s clattering cymbal shots and focused textures are on side during the first and title track and very quickly the trombonist’s up and down slurs become more animated and wider, sliding and stuttering a collection of patterns in his narrative. Exhibiting bows to Native American-like tom toms pressure and reverberations from gongs, hi hat and miscellaneous small percussion instruments, the drummer sets up a continuum from which Rutherford’s can dig deeper into his horn’s innards to produce multiphonic vibrations with tones seemingly reflecting the metal as much as air and movement. Pedal tones soon give way to gutbucket-styled slurs, elephant-like bellowing and eventually a layered sequence where tone brushes against tone at near supersonic speeds. Keeping the illusion of rhythmic swing palpable, Toyozumi’s stentorian whacks shift to paradiddles and rolls climaxing with cymbal slaps to match the trombonist’s slide guffaws.

Percussion tones become more isolated and metallic sounding, though still holding to the groove when initiating a variant of call-and-response with the trombonist’s plunger work in the middle of the meeting; and then the concluding “Song for Sadamu Hisada” adds unexpected warmth to the sometimes technical tête-à-tête., Rutherford starts off with carefully cultivated brass vibrations escalating to assault-rifle-like firing speed. Balladic rather than bravado, his skill allows him to shrink his solo to pinpoint textures, but even as he does that, he pulls out sliding growls never abandoning linear thrusts. Toyozumi’s rattles, rebounds and pops make appropriate backing and fade in unison the trombone tones for a perfect finale.

Travel back 11 years to “Duet for Two” for a match with Rogers and a more cadenced interaction. With lower tones at a premium, the bassist not only provides rhythmic thumping on which the trombonist can rely on to back his frequent triplet slurs and whining slides, but also uses Arco projections to assert himself. Until mid-point though, high-pitched brass dissonance nearly forces the bassist’s sound far into the background. Luckily a series of resonating string stops comes forward to stuff Rutherford’s rugged bites into a mutual linear exposition. By the end, tremolo bowing from Rogers and treble vibrations from the trombonist meld into cumulative expression. Flash forward to 2007 with “Trio Finale”, a few months before Rutherford’s death, and something is lacking despite the presence of Weston and Mattos. Perhaps it’s because the improvisations appear more conventional 40 years on. with the cellist adding romantic overtone and the pianist’s key plinks almost mocking in tone. However the three loosen up before the finale with the trombonist back in form enough to propel outwards extraordinary plunger tones, swiftly doubled by sul ponticello cello strokes.

Setting the dials for the time machine backwards for 1979 and “Duet for One”, the suggestion is that Rutherford’s best accompanists may be himself. With the addition of electronics, multiphonics are augmented and wilder and more obtuse improvisations are snarled because of that. Although mid-way through the tune it becomes necessary for Rutherford to rein in his buzzing oscillations that drawback is resolved by harmonizing the real and processed brass tones. Additionally, it’s the human who emerges at the end, creating pugnacious nasal snarls, shaking out variables that machines couldn’t then replicate.

Rutherford recorded numerous sessions. While others may be his best known work, in Backward Times provides a notable cross section of his innovative skills through an almost 40-year time frame.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Conscience: 1. The Conscience 2. Beer, Beer and Beer 3. Dear Ho Chi Mihn 4. I Miss My Pet Rakkyo 5. Song for Sadamu Hisada

Personnel: Conscience: Paul Rutherford (trombone) and Sabu Toyozumi (drums)

Track Listing: Backward: 1. Duet for One 2. Duet for Two 3. Solo for One 4, Trio Finale

Personnel: Backward: Paul Rutherford (trombone and electronics) with Veryan Weston (piano)^; Marcio Mattos (cello and electronics)^ and Paul Rogers (bass)*