Scot Ray:
Active Vapor Recovery




Active Vapor Recovery


Another shining jewel in Cryptogramophone's crown, this recording features trombonist Scot Ray leading a quartet of label regulars, including the peerless Cline brothers (Nels and Alex) on guitars and percussion respectively, Jeff Gauthier on violin and Stuart Liebig on bass. However, leading (or following) is problematic for this group of musicians, because their collective style is always highly interactive, with various combinations joining together in duet and trio formats throughout. Ray is given plenty of chances to show off his chops, but he hardly dominates. And while traditionalists may regard the presence of electric guitar and violin in the group as unconventional, it's a combination that works brilliantly, thanks in part to the natural sonorities of the instruments, but also to the gifts of Nels Cline and Jeff Gauthier. Both can mimic reeds and brass with uncanny accuracy, giving the quintet a rich, fat sound. Guitarist Cline continues to amaze with his matter-of-fact integration of thrash and avant garde flailing into a jazz context, although he is equally at home in a half-dozen or so other styles. This, together with Gauthier' s expressive violin, give the group access to an array of timbres and textures well beyond the reach of the standard jazz quintet.

Leader Ray brings the tunes, all of which are all his own compositions. A number of pieces develop from repetitive, staccato riffs, twisted and pulled in several directions while individual musicians improvise over the top. "Above Breath" opens with a terrific unaccompanied trombone intro. Later, Scot and bassist Liebig are featured in a duet, and the two sound like a pair of elegant elephants doing a stately little dance.

Perhaps the most audacious piece is "In Cleveland", which begins with a bouncy disco theme (anyone for the twist, or perhaps the frug?), but then develops into something much less predictable, with great interplay between Cline and Scot. However, the title piece wins the funk sweepstakes, with great bone work, lots of punch from the rhythm section, and some of the nastiest, most distorted guitar imaginable from Cline, who stutters, sputters and howls behind the theme statement like a man possessed.

Equally impressive are three long pieces that unfold in a more leisurely fashion. Two are ballads ("Man as Kite" and "Bitteroot"), and here, the quintet plays it straight, although with the characteristic little wrinkles in instrument groupings and writing that consistently distinguishes this group from the run-of-the-mill equivalent. "Trouble with Sugar" begins as a free conversation among quintet members and then moves into a boppish theme, sometimes alternating with a controlled, eight bar collective freakout. Here (and elsewhere), the humour and expansive use of musical materials (everything from Ellington to greasy funk and atonal bursts of noise) brings to mind the compositions of Charles Mingus , and that's no bad thing.

Bill Tilland - -


The lead trombonist is new to me, but the Nels Cline- Alex Cline- Jeff Gauthier- Steuart Liebig nexus is a known Northwest quantity. That's electric guitar, drums, contrabass guitar and electric violin, respectively. The bass guitar driven compositions give this a rock/fusiony structure. Zappa and Spirit fans will be delighted. There are great guitar-trombone duos in some of the compositions. The standout tracks are the two extended works, "Man As Kite" and "Trouble With Sugar," clocking in at eleven and fourteen minutes, but exciting, high energy, rock-informed improvisation is the order of the day. "In Cleveland," with it's great trombone solo and wacky rhythms, make it a great dance numbers for those whose bodies enjoy rhythms more than click tracks. Great title and accompanying illustrations.


Trombonist Scot Ray rounds up the usual suspects of West Coast postmodern jazz for this session classified in the 'unable to classify' category.

The former sideman in Brian Setzer's swing orchestra pens a few ideas of hs own on Active Vapor Recovery. He has jettisoned swing for an amalgam of fresh funk, rock, chamber, and free music. Scot assembles a cast of Cryptogramphone and 9 Winds record regulars to pull off this most eclectic of sessions.

But then again what would you expect from a trombone/electric violin/bass/guitar/drums record? Cartoon music? Yes, and then some. Scot's compositions, nine of them, are a sort of 21st century Raymond Scott pack of hungry electric cannibals with all the time and music shifts possible.

His "Scarabaeus" starts off marching, only to twist into the Warner Brothers cartoon version of hide-and-seek before mashing a bit of guitar/trombone driven mayhem. The quintet also dabbles in chamber jazz on "Man As Kite," prominently featuring Jeff Gauthier's fluid tone. You have to dig any band that can go from dizzy to beautiful with such ease. They infuse soul jazz and funk jazz into the 1970s inspired "In Cleveland" and the title track. This eclecticism of style can sound stilted if care is not taken to keep the music consistent. Scot's choice of the Cline bothers and Stuart Liebig makes the sum of these parts a greater whole. Guitarist Nels Cline has always been able to shift genre and attention with eloquence. Scot allows Cline to shred when necessary; other places he accompanies without distracting.

The two tracks that stand out here are almost exact opposites in style. The nearly 14-minute "Trouble With Sugar" is a free abstraction of created sounds, while "Bitteroot" plies beautifully long lines of color over a landscape of serenity. Ray's trombone carves through all of these tunes with a remarkable fluency in all styles.

Mark Corroto - -


Cryptogramophone records has rapidly grown into a high-integrity label that cultivates breadth and a "take no prisoners" approach to contemporary improvised music. Trombonist Scot Ray's latest, Active Vapor Recovery is another fine entry in what is rapidly becoming one of the most progressive independent labels on the market.

Diversity is the name of the game. From the raucous fusion of "Three Quarks" to the pastoral "In a Silent Way"-informed closer, "Bitteroot", Ray and the quintet cover a lot of musical territory.

For fans of guitarist Nels Cline this is, of course, no surprise. Cline can play funky rhythms and slightly outside rock licks as he does on the quirky "In Cleveland"; create dense textures with metal power chords on "Above Breath", and provide subtle chordal backwashes in the intro to the odd-signatured "Man as Kite". Cline, through his work on most of Cryptogramophone's releases, continues to prove that he is one of the most versatile guitarists on the improvising scene today, with an ability to fit into any context.

Violinist/producer Jeff Gauthier is also able to adapt to whatever is thrown at him. Soloing in tandem with Scott on "Shiny Object", which shifts from free-time to the one of the most swinging tunes on the record, Gauthier shows his new music roots, while kicking into high-fusion gear on "In Cleveland".

Contrabassist Steuart Liebig and drummer Alex Cline keep things solid yet, somehow, unpredictable. From the free time and funk of "Trouble with Sugar" to the swing of "Shiny Object" to the down-and-dirty "Scarabaeus", this is a rhythm section that knows how to propel the rest of the group.

Ray's command of the trombone is staggering. There are but a handful of trombonists on the scene today who have the technique and breadth of feel to move an instrument, traditionally thought of as more of an ensemble piece, to the forefront. Ray, with his multiphonics skill, complete musical commitment and ability to make his trombone sing, howl and stutter, is one of them. Check out his solos on the heavy-fusion "Three Quarks", the opening of the furious "Above Breath" and the melodic and pastoral intro to "Man as Kite" and you'll hear a player at the top of his creative game. As a writer Ray is consistently engaging, while often throwing in odd little surprises that, for all their unpredictability, never fail to make perfect sense.

An auspicious début, Active Vapor Recovery is a welcome addition to the Cryptogramophone body of work, and to the collections of listeners who want to be engaged and, at the same time, challenged.

John Kelman - -


Listening to trombonist Scot Ray's Small Architecture , I can hear why his band tonight (Nels Cline, Alex Cline, Steuart Liebig and Jeff Gauthier) enjoy playing with him. On Architecture , with guitarist Andrew Barbera and drummer David Shaffer, Ray veers from texture to texture, form to form, but with enough structure to keep everything from rolling off the table. The scattering-and-unifying drum opportunities surely appeal to Alex. The intuitive relation between scored line and eventual improvisation is violinist Gauthier's forte. Bassist Liebig will dig deep into Ray's intermittent grooves, then generate waves of noise that'll scare a moose. And Nels (who's in a super duo with percussionist Christopher Garcia at the Fold on Wednesday, by the way) loves both playing those tight unison lines and fogging out the big clouds of electronic atmosphere that Ray demands and helps create. Ray has also played in the Brian Setzer Orchestra. But anyone expecting swing revivals here will weep bitter tears.

Greg Burk - - L.A. Weekly


If your notion of modern jazz trombone music starts with J.J. Johnson and Curtis Fuller and extends no further out than, say, Ray Anderson, then Active Vapor Recovery offers a delightful opportunity to slide toward broader horizons. While former Mother of Invention Bruce Fowler and Jazz Passenger/Lounge Lizard Curtis Fowlkes have pioneered jazz-rock with their 'bones, Scot Ray is blazing new trails on an electro-acoustic music frontier that extends well beyond any conventional notion of fusion.

The Los Angeles trombonist/composer works comfortably in tightly orchestrated rocking funk modes ("Three Quarks") not dissimilar to those of the late Frank Zappa, delicately arranged chamber-jazz ("Man as Kite," "Bitteroot"), and spaciously paced avant-garde ambiences that allow ample room for improvisation ("Trouble with Sugar"). The same can be said for the members of his all-star Southern California quintet of label mates, including Cryptogramophone founder Jeff Gauthier (electric violin), Nels Cline (electric guitar), Steuart Liebig (contrabass guitars), and Alex Cine (drums and percussion). Each brings a similarly varied sensibility and often-stunning technical virtuosity to the session, giving the nine original compositions (ranging in length from three-and-three-quarters to just under 14 minutes) a startling diversity, sometimes within a single piece.

Titled to evoke the process of capturing something as ephemeral as music (sound, energy, breath) with recording devices, Active Vapor Recovery succeeds in temporarily stabilizing an extremely volatile combination of novel instrumentation and stylistic eclecticism. As is typical with Cryptogramophone productions, the distinctive and highly personalized sonic qualities of each instrument - - Ray's silvery trombone and Nels Cline's raunchy guitar, for example - - come through with stark but never cold clarity, from top to bottom. Not bad for a player who toiled for years in the brass section of the Brian Setzer Orchestra before breaking out into the L.A. creative music scene.

Derk Richardson, The Absolute Sound


Trombonist Scot Ray leads a West Coast consortium of like-minded musicians on this superb 2003 release. And while the trombonist possesses monstrous chops, this jazz/fusion style effort presents somewhat of a multifaceted outlook. Here, the oft-maligned jazz tinted genre gets a welcome makeover. From the onset of the peppery opener titled "Three Quarks," it should become immediately apparent that something very special is about to happen. On this piece, Ray, guitarist Nels Cline and violinist Jeff Gauthier engage in a swirling ostinato motif via a high-impact delivery. As Ray generates a tuneful groove atop bassist Steuart Liebig and drummer Alex Cline's rock solid rhythmic maneuvers. However, the band minces a loose groove vibe amid free-form excursions coupled with tricky time signatures and a tightly coordinated approach.

Blistering unison lines, vivacious soloing escapades, and memorable melodies augment the ensemble's spunky demeanor. It's partly about the musicians' glowing synergy and their effective execution of dynamics that permeates this outing. This production also benefits from a glistening audio engineering process. No doubt, Ray's brainchild looms as one of the top albums of the year, or any year for that matter. (Strongly recommended...)

Glenn Astarita, Jazz Review

L'album di Scot Ray è altrettanto valido e si muove in un territorio leggermente diverso. Siamo un po' più vicini al jazz, non manca una buona dose di funky, ma rimangono comunque, a confermare la vicinanza con Bone Structure , precise assonanze col mondo dell'avanguardia e con quello del rock progressivo.

Nel quintetto ritroviamo Jeff Gauthier e Steuart Liebig , impegnati come sempre al violino e al contrabbasso elettrico, e, oltre al leader Scot Ray impegnato al trombone, si aggiungono i gemelli Cline , che sono di casa alla Cryptogramophone . Come sempre Nels è alla chitarra elettrica e Alex è alla batteria e alle percussioni.

L'album pare partire in maniera molto libera, senza troppi riferimenti. Le nove composizioni di Ray sono un perfetto veicolo per una improvvisazione strutturata che si nutre degli interventi corposi dei vari solisti. Poi nella parte centrale dell'album certi stilemi jazzistici sembrano emergere dall'ensemble, per stemperarsi in temi decisamente funky e ritornare in quella terra di nessuno dove questa musica cresce rigogliosa.

Nels Cline è come sempre straordinario, la sua chitarra elettrica è come una spada infuocata che serpeggia e getta lampi, la sua curiosità lo spinge a rischiare sempre l'osso del collo, ma la sua conoscenza enciclopedica della musica 'paria' gli permette di atterrare sempre sulle gambe, vero gatto dalle sette vite con chitarra incorporata a mo' di elettrico airbag. Il fratello gemello Alex ha una personalità altrettanto forte e la sua gestione dell'arsenale percussivo è sempre stupefacente. Qui passa da sezioni funky, dove picchia durissimo, a rarefatte dilatazioni, dove il tempo si fa di nebbia e si lascia manipolare solo da chi lo conosce molto bene.

Il leader si dimostra musicista coi controfiocchi. Ha un controllo eccellente della gamma timbrica del suo strumento e soprattutto sa farlo marciare anche da un punto di vista ritmico: quando il groove si fa più intenso, pare di ascoltare un novello Fred Wesley alle prese con i suoi compari delle band di James Brown e di George Clinton . Pure in atmosfere inevitabilmente diverse, Jeff Gauthier e Steuart Liebig confermano l'eccellente prova fornita nell'album di cui abbiamo parlato all'inizio. Il violinista si cala alla perfezione in un contesto dove il suo lavoro è più in vena solistica che non di raccordo e il bassista conferma la bontà delle sue scelte timbriche e l'ottimo interplay con il batterista.

Se la Cryptogramophone fosse una società per azioni consiglieremmo ad occhi chiusi di comprarne le azioni, visto che non sbagliano mai un colpo. Visto che fanno dischi, sapete già bene cosa fare.

Maurizio Comandini - - all aboutjazz.italia


Szczerze powiedziawszy muzyk? zwan? kiedy? jazz-rockiem, a od pewnego czasu fusion pogrzeba?em ju? jaki? czas temu, nie bardzo widz?c w niej co?, co by mog?o mnie zaciekawi?. Od pewnego czasu, z du?? doz? przyjemno?ci s?ucham kwintetu nieznanego mi puzonisty Scota Raya, który wraz z kolegami udzielaj?cymi si? na p?ytach Cryptogramophone, nagra? p?yt? pod tytu?em "Active Vapor Recovery". P?yta wpisuje si? w dokonania fusion rodem jeszcze z lat 70, cho? jak dla mnie brzmi o wiele przyjemniej, a to g?ównie za spraw? dobrych kompozycji, oraz - pomimo "mocno" brzmi?cej sekcji rytmicznej - nie silenia si? na granie instrumentalnego rocka z d?ugimi, improwizowanymi solami, a na prawdziwe ??czenie idiomów i j?zyków muzycznych w?a?ciwych obu gatunkom w homogeniczn? ca?o??. Wydaje mi si?, zreszt?, ?e to ów brak przymusu w graniu d?ugich i co tu du?o mówi?, najcz??ciej nudnych, solówek jest jedn? z zalet tej p?yty. Drug? - jest niew?tpliwie dobrze brzmi?cy zespó?. Nic mi nie wiadomo, by sk?ad zaprezentowany na p?ycie jako Scot Ray Quintet by? sta?ym i regularnym, jednak przynajmniej czworo spo?ród muzyków zespo?u to stali bywalcy na p?ytach wydawanych przez Cryptogramophone - by? mo?e dzi?ki temu zespó? brzmi bardzo kompetentnie i rzetelnie.

Niby najbardziej znani muzycy tej sesji (przynajmniej dla mnie), to bracia Nels i Alex Cline, którzy odpowiadaj? wraz z basist? za mocne, rockowe brzmienie sekcji, jednak dla mnie cichym czarnym koniem tej muzyki jest skrzypek (przy okazji szef wytwórni) Jeff Gauthier. To dzi?ki niemu, oraz dzi?ki zestawieniu brzmienia puzonu i elektrycznych skrzypiec oraz przeciwstawieniu tych instrumentów - zarówno pod wzgl?dem brzmienia, jak i bardziej jazzowego charakteru grania - rockowej sekcji, muzyka uzyska?a swoje specyficzne brzmienie. Moim zdaniem na szczególn? uwag? zas?uguj? dwie d?u?sze kompozycje: "Man as Knife" oraz "Trouble with Sugar", przywodz?ce na my?l raczej form? suity, ni? charakterystycznych dla jazzu d?u?szych utworów sk?adaj?cych si? przede wszystkim z d?ugich improwizacji.

Nie jestem wielkim sympatykiem fusion, ale ta pozycja spodoba?a mi si? i do?? cz?sto go?ci w moim CD. Mo?e tak b?dzie i u Was?

Pawe? Baranowski