Abbey, Just a quick note to thank you profoundly for yours and Billy’s performance at the Zeitgeist on Tuesday. I’ve rarely had the honor of being in the presence of such caring and committed musicians, and I look forward to seeing you again in the New Orleans area...(he says, hopefully!)
To say it was inspiring is to downplay it severely! It was a cosmic arrest, an aetheric visitation, an ongoing revelation of the heart that we all got to overhear...!
Again THANK YOU all my best wishes,
- Patrick McCormack
Drummer Abbey Rader is another South Florida jazz artist most comfortable dancing around the edge. Rader’s consistent pursuit of in-the-moment creation marks him as a jazz man in the true sense of the word, whether attacking a kit or cracking a hand drum, his thunderous sounds combine sacred African, Asian, and Haitian traditions with humor, wit, and the joy of noise making. Rader’s recorded work with Kenny Millions, saxophonist Dave Liebman, flautist Philip Gelb, and Riversticks are among the finest local jazz releases available.
- Bob Weinberg
I especially like jazz that’s juiced by drums/percussion and Abbey Rader’s doing it, mixing middle eastern progressions with jazz improvs for the fattest groove this side of Tuesday.
- Greg Baker
The odometer on drummer Abbey Rader’s little hatchback has been getting quite a workout lately, having tuner over 60,000 miles in just two years. Rader just returned to his home in Coral Springs from a tour with avant-garde violinist Billy Bang. Right now, he’s fixing dinner for himself and Bang, before the legendary free-jazz figure returns to his home in Germany.
The pair’s last stop was Charleston, S.C., and before that Atlanta and before that Birmingham and before that New Orleans. “We had this audience,” he says of their stop at New Orleans’ Zeitgeist Art Center, “I never seen nothing like it, dwarfs and fat ladies and brothers. And they came from far away; it’s amazing to me.” And before that it was New York, for the avant-garde Vision Festival, with lots of heavy cats from the free jazz scene. “We really smoked them that day,” says Rader, with typical Brooklyn braggadocio.
Previously, he had hatchbacked with experimental guitarist Davey Williams, and somehow managed to find the time to record a pairs of startling duo records with Bang and Williams on his own Abray label.
An inveterate jazz adventurer, Rader has to travel in order to play the highly improvisational style of music to which he’s dedicated his life, because sure as hell ain’t no place to perform it in South Florida.
“That’s been the problem for two decades,” laments WLRN (91.3-FM)’s Steve Malagodi, the longtime host of the wonderfully ear-opening Modern School of Modern Jazz (midnight-2 a.m. Saturdays), pretty much the only game in town when it comes to experimental music. Fortunately, Malagodi has found a sympathetic venue in Miami’s Timba, where he hopes to regularly present avant-garde concerts, the first of which takes place Monday, Dec. 6 with Rader and like-minded saxophonist Dave Liebman.
“I pretty much gave him a free hand to destroy my Mondays and Wednesdays,” says Timba’s Jacques Milhomme, previously of Rose’s Weekends, Milhomme reasons, probably wouldn’t work given the expense, but on an off-night, why not? “As long as we’re not losing money,” he says.
“I like the location, the space and the management,” Malagodi continues. “Right now, we’re in the mutual discovery mode, but it’s a tremendous commitment [for the club to make]. We’re still speculating on the audience. Jazz does not pay for itself [in South Florida], but we have no illusions about that and we’re proceeding from that assumption. We’re just going to keep the expenses way down.”
Understandable, in that Malagodi is actually putting up his own money and taking a month off from WLRN to make this program work. Mostly as a courtesy to the artists, Malagodi also will record the performances, both for his radio show and for the musicians to sell.
Malagodi recently captured Rader with guitarist Williams at the Historical Museum of South Florida in Miami as the pair plucked out of the ether the evocative tone poems that appear on what came to be titled The Ballistics of Yin and Yang. “Later, Mr. Malagodi informed us that we had been making music,” Williams writes and the liner notes, “and in retrospect, Abbey and I were strongly inclined to agree.”
With titles such as “The Moonlight Crossed The River Like a Blowtorch”, “The Mechanics of Quietude” and the atmospheric “Nightwalk”, these improvisations are more sonic impressions than songs, with Williams exploring all the electronic possibilities of his instrument and Rader’s thunder-handed drumming seething and roiling below the surface. This isn’t exactly music you walk away humming, but you won’t forget it, either.
A bit more accessible are the recordings Rader made with Liebman, including 1997’s Inner Voices, a half-improvised, half-composed series of duets. Multi-reed man Liebman, who’s best know for his cutting soprano sax, is a tremendously creative presence, and recent recording Pat Metheny and Joanne Brackeen are among this year’s highlights. On Inner Voices, he and Rader share a sensibility and commitment to go wherever the music takes them. And the results are magical, both the provocative in-your-face stuff and the more hushed meditative pieces, which feature Liebman’s gorgeous bamboo flutes conversing quietly with Rader’s cymbals and hand drums.
And speaking of mediation, Rader was off on a Zen retreat over Thanksgiving with a yogi he describes as something of a drill sergeant. After a week if silence, he relates, he’ll be ready to make some noise, which should bode well for his show with Liebman. “It’s very intensive,” says Rader of the retreat. “It really gives me the focus I need in this kind of spontaneous playing.”
Rader and Liebman perform 8 p.m. Dec. 6 at Timba, 2898 Biscayne Blvd. (right next to the New Times building) in Miami. Tickets cost $8, $5 for students. Call 305/438-0500.
- Bob Weinberg