Is writing that a music can’t be retained in the memory a compliment or a reprimand? The crow keepers of official criticism might find lots of “authorized” terms to describe and classify the kind of interrelations occurring in Live At Roulette, but what remains in this writer’s mind following several thorough listens is a vague difficulty in accepting its imperfect, chamber-tinged arduousness. As if the instinctive connections that attribute naturalness to a creative stream had been severed by a malevolent entity, the musicians feverishly attempting to put scattered pieces and ideas together. Now and again successfully, otherwise rather inconclusively.
Cellist Levin decided to tape the material after noticing that the most remarkable occurrences between him and his comrades were situated “off the map into uncharted territory”, as opposed to the prearranged frames that he was trying to set for them to improvise upon when the group started in 2001. Including Nate Wooley on trumpet, Matt Moran on vibes and Peter Bitenc on bass, the potential and the actual technical yield of this collective is quite high. The dynamics at work are indeed many and multidirectional, the alternance of soloist spots, duets and sudden crescendos a memo of the theoretical highs that we were anticipating.
Ultimately, what’s lacking is exactly the sort of snapping break, of excogitative coup that characterizes the unforgettable chapters in the book of improvisation. When something comes that, at least for a while, reinforces our conviction of having individuated the right way, it sounds more an accident than the crop of instantaneous research. And usually it lasts for a too short moment in time, before the general sense of uncertain direction returns. To summarize, this is a record made by outstanding players that in this circumstance didn’t manage to reap the expected fruits, remaining at a midway point along the various paths.