Gerald Cleaver: Farmers by Nature

This is full-immersion music — on the part of players and listener alike. Farmers by Nature captures a live performance by three of the most accomplished improvisers to be found anywhere — drummer Cleaver, bassist William Parker and pianist Craig Taborn — in a completely extemporaneous setting. The level of interactivity is at a ridiculously sophisticated ebb, each player leading and reacting equally, the trio moving organically from minimalist solo forays to manic, almost violent, crescendos.

There aren’t a lot of pretty notes here, but the music is not the non-stop, high-dudgeon cacophony that informs most free jazz. During a good portion of “The Night,” Taborn fixates on the middle range of his piano, wringing all he can from a limited palette of notes. On the ensuing two pieces, “Cranes” and “Not Unlike Number 10,” he murders his instrument, spewing out fusillades of sound like he’s a deranged octopus.

Very little of Farmers by Nature grooves, but most of it finds a shifting but discernible pulse. A section of “In Trees” features Taborn’s scattershots over something akin to a frenetic bop rhythm. Occasionally, Parker gets a bit enamored with plumbing the sonic possibilities of his acoustic bass and devolves into lone noodling, but soon enough the trio rediscovers its collective momentum and (dis)order is restored.

The trio has no particular destination during the set — and is in no particular hurry to get there. But the immersed listener, with sensibilities geared to this sort of music, will find it a most invigorating ride. (AUM Fidelity)

—Eric Snider

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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