Art Lande: Rubisa Patrol (ECM 1081)

Art Lande
Rubisa Patrol

Art Lande piano
Mark Isham trumpet, fluegelhorn, soprano saxophone
Bill Douglass bass, flute, bamboo flute
Glenn Cronkhite drums, percussion
Recorded May 1976 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

With Art Lande’s Rubisa Patrol, ECM took a step in a much-heralded direction, one that pushed the scope of its reach even farther. An album like this proves there is no one sound for the label, but only many through which both musicians and listeners develop deeply personal connections, recollections, and changing identities. The vibrancy of its moods remains as potent as it was three-and-a-half decades ago. With Lande at the keys, Mark Isham (very much in a Kenny Wheeler mode) on horns and soprano sax, Bill Douglass on bass and flutes, and Glenn Cronkhite on drums and percussion, the results can only be magical. The opening strains of “Celestial Guests–Many Chinas” introduce the dizi, a Chinese bamboo flute, to the ECM instrument bank. Its clarity cuts through our expectations and embraces us with its immediacy. From behind this arresting tonal horizon arises a blazing sun of percussion and lyrical horns. Lande makes things complete by dropping his own potent melodies into this auditory tincture. The veil is lifted with “Romany.” Watching like a pair of eyes scanning an empty landscape in hopes of movement, it discloses the inner trepidation of an unstable politic. Our allegiance is broken and reformed again with the klezmer-like inteisity of “Bulgarian Folk Tune.” Throughout its enthralling single minute, we cannot help but be moved by its tightly executed energies. “Corinthian Melodies” is another stunning reworking of traditional sources. Here, those resilient fibers are spun into even thicker cords, allowing Isham and Douglass more traction in their solos. Anyone missing the groovier side of things gets just that in the piano-bass interplay of “For Nancy,” in and out of which Isham weaves with the deftness of a hummingbird, sampling nectar where it may until it vanishes in a spray of raindrops. “Jaimi’s Birthday Song” and it reprise feature a duet of flute and piano in two relaxed Red Lanta-esque messages. The latter of these leads us to “A Monk In His Simple Room,” bicycling through thematic material with a leisurely panache in this lavish closer.

A magical album from start to finish, Rubisa is an exercise in atmosphere. Lande captivates on all levels and seems to bring out nothing short of the best in his fellow musicians. And while the label has no shortage of fine horn players, on this recording we get an especially fluid example of the craft through Isham’s unmitigated wanderings. With its nods to folk elements and host of other influences, this makes for a fitting companion for the more recent Kuára.

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One thought on “Art Lande: Rubisa Patrol (ECM 1081)

  1. I read this review with interest.

    A couple of salient points worth mentioning.

    I have loved this album for decades and treasure my “vinyl” copy which I have also carefully digitized for easier consumption. That’s right this album has never been released in CD form! This along with well over a hundred other ECM titles have never been released in full fidelity CD format

    The other point worth mentioning is that the opening track “Many Chinas” composed by the prolific and multi-talented Mark Isham also made an appearance on Isham’s seminal synth masterpiece “Vapor Drawings” on the now defunct Windham Hill label. Windham Hill owes more than a bit of acknowledgement to ECM much to Manfred Eicher’s chagrin. The different incarnations between the two “Many Chinas” is quite striking and worth checking out.

    Keep up the great work with the ECM reviews.

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