The Rub and Spare Change is double bassist Michael Formanek's debut on the famed ECM Records label, and it's a very good one. Enlisting pianist Craig Taborn, alto sax player Tim Berne, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, Formanek takes somewhat of a left turn here from what we normally expect on an ECM release, adding bits of swing & groove into these dense, avant-garde tinged jazz songs.
Opener "Twenty Three Neo" is a stark, not quite meditative piece, with the whole group bubbling and simmering but never quite reaching a boil, which is probably the precursor to the monster track waiting in the wings. Title track "The Rub and Spare Change" is a rhythmic barnburner, chock full of groove and complex arrangements. Formanek & Cleaver provide an intricate rhythm over which Berne sizzles on the sax and Taborn lays down a wide assortment of tinkling notes on the piano. The closing lines from both those players are stunning, as the ensemble shows us all how to perfectly mesh melody and free-jazz into something highly listenable. "Inside the Box" features some irresistable jumping bass lines from Formanek and quirky melody lines courtesy of Berne & Taborn, while the pianist is all over the more laid back lounge jazz of "Jack's Last Call". The real centerpiece of the CD is the 17-minute epic "Tonal Suite", a scorching swinger of improvised might, highlighted by some fabulous blowing from Berne and plenty of complex interplay between the entire group. Dissonance clashes with melody on the intricate closer "Too Big to Fail", as Taborn's insistent piano vamps collide with squonking sax and flailing rhythms.
This is really wild stuff, and a CD that should be immediately investigated for all those that like complex, free spirited jazz with plenty of melody and groove. Michael Formanek has scored a major hit on his ECM debut as a leader!
1) Twenty Three Neo
2) The Rub And Spare Change
3) Inside The Box
4) Jack's Last Call
5) Tonal Suite
6) Too Big To Fail