Ches Smith: Interpret It Well

Percussionist leads a band including Bill Frisell in abstracted music that follows a logic perhaps only fully evident to the players


Drummer and vibes player Ches Smith explains in his brief sleeve note that he regards Maneri and Taborn as regular members of his “road” band, with Frisell a more than welcome addition, bringing an understanding to the group’s goals and ethos. Once again, we are in that blurred area where composition meets improvisation, the listener unable to discern where the planned collides with those “in the moment” passages.

The results leader Smith wishes to achieve are clearly outlined on the title track, where a myriad of sounds clash, subside and resolve according to a logic probably only the band members will understand as satisfactory. This is music far from obviously centred and demands the listener totally immerse themselves in the performance as a whole if they wish to achieve understanding.

Elsewhere, there is much of the same, some passages taking longer than is necessarily welcome, whilst others conclude more rapidly – there are periods where “time” is evident, often welcome, occasionally plodding. If one of Smith’s intentions is to merge the tones of the instruments, this is achieved, for the ears are often challenged as vibes, guitar and viola construct a mesh.

These are four fine musicians playing music for themselves and inevitably for a limited audience – a suitable description, in fact, for many “cutting edge” journeys.

Trapped; Interpret It Well; Mixed Metaphor; Morbid; Clear Major; I Need More; Deppart (69.39)
Ches Smith (d, vib); Craig Taborn (p); Mat Maneri (vla); Bill Frisell (g). Mount Vernon, NY. 12 & 13 October 2020.
Pyroclastic Records PR 19