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March 1997

Jeff Song and Lowbrow
Rules of Engagement
AsianImprov Records

The young Asian Improv label, Berkeley based, is committed to improvised music under the leadership of Asian Americans. Rules of Engagement contains an array of musical fractals coordinated by Jeff Song who plays bass guitars. Song pulls together into a dual foundation in Jazz and past-Romantic classical music affinities as diversified as Hendrix, avant garde music for cello and flute, and crackling trumpet sonorities created by either Cuong Vu or Dean Laabs. On the lengthy suite, "The Dragon Song," the leader vocalizes and plays the fretless bass as a guitar, something not consciously effected in other pop and fusion venues. John Hettam creates occasionally fragmentary textures through his percussion work, and band members all thrive in the melodies that have little rhythmic centers but lots of movement, even if it's deliberately inconsistent. The individual tracks resemble one another by building around series of effulgences that in turn resolve meditatively on "The: Caress of Old Shoes," featuring trumpet, cello, and cymbals, and on "Safe" and "Your Brow, My Brow," which are melanges of differing well-paced solo and ensemble adventures. There's no "anything goes" music on this CD. All the moods invoked are deftly controlled.

Originally published in March 1997
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