Adam Rudolph and Tyshawn Sorey – Archaisms I (Defkaz, 2023)

Archaisms I is a document showcasing the maiden voyage duo performance of two veteran composer-performers, Tyshawn Sorey and Adam Rudolph. The duo engage with one another with the elan and subtle nuances of near age siblings throughout the 45-minute improvised set taken from a 2021 event at Zurcher Gallery. Neither performer is new to duo collaborations, each having several releases and years of shows under their belts by the time of this album. Having participated in similar performance experiences, I can attest to it being quite a challenge to balance voices and sustain activity without stepping on your partner and that difficulty increases with every minute more on stage. Thus, it is all the more admirable that neither Sorey nor Rudolph are selfish players. Sorey in particular is capable of sustained intensity using a full awareness of space to create passages of awe-inspiring activity without ever feeling unnecessarily busy or demonstrative.

The performance is broken up into four distinct and varied parts of more-or-less equal length and shape. With that in mind, I listened to Archaisms I both front-to-back and back-to-front to see if I got two unique experience of timbrally varied arcs. I did. Either direction showcased a wealth of propulsive intention without wane of any kind. There is an openness and flow to each segment which is refreshing and never predictable and this brought me through the world of the album with consistent interest and attention. Archaisms I represents a collection of gestures towards musical possibilities through improvised dialogue on instruments played by likeminded individuals. Rudolph utilizes a vast palette of mostly non-Western sounding instruments including mbira, bells, djembe, tabla, shakers, and blocks from around the world to provide unique contexts for Sorey’s near supernatural command and diversity of vocabulary behind the kit.

I felt there was an ever-present sense of traveling or being on a journey as a result of the artists’ voices colliding in real time. The quality of sound and considerate character of the performance as a whole is fluid and resists casual labels, but not in such a sense that forbids occasional shards of grooves and cellular structures to enter on occasion. Sorey and Rudolph are master listeners that are comfortable leading and supporting each other equally. Furthermore, both are likewise excellent at noticing, recognizing and ultimately harvesting the tiniest sonic connections of value for extensive development into fully realized gestures. This especially comes across during the deeply visceral moments in the second cut where bongos and drums interlock into any number of novel, powerful textures. Another beautiful moment occurs towards the end of the third piece where a loose but straight bell pattern seamlessly takes over the track coming out of an explosive cloud of snare drum. It’s an elemental communication throughout! As the title of this release is labeled “I”, perhaps we’ll see more live documents from this formidable pair in the not-too-distant future. Let’s hope.

Max KutnerAdam Rudolph and Tyshawn Sorey – Archaisms I (Defkaz, 2023)