Lisa Mezzacappa & Nightshade – Cosmic Rift
(Leo CD LR 613.CD Review by Chris Parker)
Bassist Lisa Mezzacappa is a resident of San Francisco, and this richly atmospheric album marks the debut of her quintet Nightshade, a band completed by clarinettist Cory Wright, electric guitarist John Finkbeiner, electronics operator Tim Perkis and vibraphonist/percussionist Kjell Nordeson.
The quintet operates in a musical area straddling free improvisation and contemporary classical music, and much of the material here springs from responses to the work of visual artists Yehudit Sasportas (based in Tel Aviv and Berlin) and LA-based Edgar Arceneaux, but if this makes their music sound overly cerebral or strictly programmatic, it’s misleading, for what immediately impresses about Cosmic Rift is the extraordinary rapport between the participants.
Indeed, such is their apparently instinctive agreement on overall tone and approach that Perkis, on being told the quintet’s name after the band’s first rehearsal, said: ‘How did you know to call us that?’ Nightshade conjures up thoughts both of crepuscular gloom and, perhaps peripherally, of the poisonous plant, and there is indeed a dark solemnity to both Mezzacappa’s pieces and her intriguing arrangements of Frank Zappa’s ‘The Eric Dolphy Memorial BBQ’ (the quintet’s use of clarinet and vibes particularly apposite here) and Messiaen’s ‘Regard de l’étoile’, but leavened as it is by Perkis’s skilful use of electronics, Finkbeiner’s scrabbling guitar, and Nordeson’s extraordinarily resourceful utilisation of percussion and vibes, the band sound is varied enough to sustain and ultimately richly reward listeners’ attention throughout what is an absorbing, imaginative and wholly original set.