Despite a vast number of projects that feature his insightful drumming, Frank Rosaly’s name has rarely appeared on the spines of albums. On those few occasions, it has been a solo percussion session or free-improv duets rather than a set of his compositions. Cicada Music corrects those shortcomings, featuring brief sketches written for a soundtrack and longer pieces that head in different directions. More than just a solid timekeeper or freeform propellant, the Chicago resident proves he’s in league with peers like Jason Adasiewicz and Keefe Jackson when it comes to composing.
Not surprisingly, both of those players appear on Cicada Music. Adasiewicz’s vibes add color, which works well during breakdowns between soloists. Jackson is one of three clarinetists on the frontline, playing both the bass and contrabass varieties, as well as tenor sax. James Falzone (B-flat clarinet) and Jason Stein (bass clarinet) also help create rich harmonies. Bassist Jason Roebke rounds out the group.
The soundtrack pieces (from a 2010 film about scrapyard scavengers called Scrappers), are built on repetition and last two minutes or less. Despite their simplicity, many feature Rosaly creating tension and suspense with sharp accents and electronic static; they also act as interludes between the longer, more developed pieces. On “Driven,” one of the longer tracks, the group starts with little to no sound and slides into a strong melody before all three clarinets embark on a free-for-all, without getting in anyone’s way or disrupting the rhythm section’s 4/4 foundation. “Babies” contrasts a gruff Jackson tenor performance with a slow, sweet background and more expansive textures courtesy of the other reeds. Hopefully Rosaly will get another chance to display his leadership skills sooner rather than later.