Photo: Dominik Huber

Milford Graves & Bill Laswell: Space/Time – Redemption

Milford Graves and Bill Laswell turn in another one of those duet albums that don't sound like one.
Milford Graves & Bill Laswell
Space/Time – Redemption

Describing Space/Time – Redemption as an album of drums and bass only gives you a fraction of the picture. For starters, the drummer in question is Milford Graves. Not only has he provided rhythm for some enormous names in modern jazz since the mid-’60s, but he has proven himself to be a versatile all-around percussionist. His approach to his instrument is a broad one, giving the listener a large canvas in which to get lost. And if you are looking for a good improviser who can jam on their instrument while creating a distinct atmosphere with a variety of electronics while possessing enough studio know-how to make it all sound good in the end, then you can’t do whole lot better than Bill Laswell. And so when Graves and Laswell combine their forces in the recording studio, less has the opportunity to be so much more. There are lots of instrumental duo albums looming around in all the post-everything genres, and they’re all pretty good. Space/Time – Redemption goes beyond “good”, or “decent”, or “admirable”. This one-hour jam is an extraordinary creature with a nervous system and a pulse, fermenting underneath the perceived limitations of the instruments involved. It’s hardly a “look at how clever we can be with limited tools!” gimmick, more of a “hey, try this on” kind of invitation.

Space/Time – Redemption is made up of only five “songs” and just over half of the running time belongs to two tracks — “Another Space” and “Another Time”. These are the two tracks where Milford and Laswell surrender all they have while allowing their ideas to stretch and stretch some more. It’s especially impressive that Laswell is able to place his sounds in and around some incredibly complex drumming from Graves, who never takes the easy way out of anything on this release (or ever, probably).

Subtlety is saved for the other tracks, like “Autopossession”, which is a nine-minute percussion piece, though Graves’s sense of musicianship allows you to almost overlook that fact. “Sonny Sharrock”, named after a unique guitarist with whom both Graves and Laswell were lucky enough to perform, is allegedly built from the melody to “Auld Lang Syne” (combining Sharrock’s name with the New Year’s folk song on Google doesn’t yield an explanation for this). But they didn’t need to paraphrase anything to get the tune going, with the bass’s ghostly overtones setting the scene for Graves’s kitchen sink. Starting track “Eternal Signs” also has a melody to share, one that is seemingly at odds with the polyrhythm tumbling from the drum kit.

It’s a good thing when talented musicians remain prolific, especially when they are inching so close to the air when your average working stiff begins to size up their 401K. By the same token, that prolific nature could mean that Space/Time – Redemption will get lost in the shuffle of Bill Laswell’s already-overflowing catalog (he once told me that his name appears on at least 3000 projects). As all kinds of media and entertainment endlessly flow through our collective nets, here’s hoping that Space/Time – Redemption snags itself to the netting long enough for us to evaluate or luck with Milford Graves and Bill Laswell still hanging around.

RATING 8 / 10