Yimba Rudo is an exciting and unique jazz trio, one that immediately stands out from the crowd due to its instrumentation. Vibraphonist/percussionist Kevin Norton, drummer/percussionist Jim Pugliese and bassist Steve LaSpina offer a minimalist approach to their instruments, a sound that is so stripped-down to its basics that these original compositions have that same purity as an all-percussion ensemble. Melodies exist, but they are in service to the sound of struck objects. On their eponymous debut, each member takes turns in exploring the physical space of their instruments so that a new language is created, one rich with both monologues and intimate conversations.
Yimba Rudo means “sing love” in the language of Shona, which is spoken in parts of Zimbabwe. On the surface there is jazz to be found, that cool almost beatnik cast that only the vibes can evoke. While this is officially classified–by Yimba Rudo, of course–as avant garde jazz, that does not mean it’s without form or shape. There is chaos but not cacophony, as you’ll find in most free jazz. These unorthodox timbres are the backbone of this exploration in sound, but they are placed in the context of rhythm and recognizable time signatures. The magic in this music, however, is in the ever-changing tones that are created.
Yimba Rudo is the brainchild of Norton, who founded Barking Hoop records back in 1999. All three of these musicians have impressive resumes, so the structures are borne of experience and not a strange desire to let loose and create new sounds for their own sake. This music is often mesmerizing and deep, especially when LaSpina pulls out his bow and does an impersonation of a full and passionate string section. Pugliese isn’t afraid to set his sticks aside and conjure up new beats with his fingers. Norton, surprisingly enough, is relatively true to his instrument, but he can still extract a quick, muted sound that isn’t too far from a toy piano. At nearly every juncture, someone is taking a risk, finding a new effect–all while playing the song.
One of the reasons why I enjoy jazz trios–and the vibraphone, for that matter–is because it’s easy to produce an exciting level of sound quality. Most producers know that it’s important to create that space between the players, far enough so you can hear all those wonderful details and close enough so you hear the physical interactions of the group as a whole. All three men serve as producer, mixers and mastering engineers, with the help of Tom Tedesco, which implies there’s a dedication to reproducing these sounds as each musician hears them. It’s a beautiful recording, full of challenging ideas, and I highly recommend it.