Riding the Nuclear Tiger

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All Music Guide - David R. Adler
Ben Allison has done it again, expertly guiding his ensemble, Medicine Wheel, through the labyrinths of these strong new compositions. There's a multifaceted brilliance at work here: a stunning display of melodic gifts and sheer instrumental ability, a mastery of orchestrational detail, and an aesthetic of celebration amid the music's high seriousness. As he has in the past, Allison succeeds in never repeating himself. Each track is its own universe, with a host of distinguishing sonic features and moods. The most outwardly exciting tunes are "Riding the Nuclear Tiger," a drum'n'bass style romp that gets its title from an actual headline in The Economist, and "Swiss ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - David R. Adler
Ben Allison has done it again, expertly guiding his ensemble, Medicine Wheel, through the labyrinths of these strong new compositions. There's a multifaceted brilliance at work here: a stunning display of melodic gifts and sheer instrumental ability, a mastery of orchestrational detail, and an aesthetic of celebration amid the music's high seriousness. As he has in the past, Allison succeeds in never repeating himself. Each track is its own universe, with a host of distinguishing sonic features and moods. The most outwardly exciting tunes are "Riding the Nuclear Tiger," a drum'n'bass style romp that gets its title from an actual headline in The Economist, and "Swiss Cheese D," a comic-book funk explosion inspired by the play-by-play commentary of retired basketball great Walt Frazier. Allison's and Ballard's stop-time fills on the latter are dead-on and electrifying. But some of the subtlest orchestration can be heard on the mellower tracks. For instance, hear the way pianist Frank Kimbrough and trumpeter Ron Horton answer saxophonist Ted Nash's melody line in "Jazz Scene Voyeur." Or how Kimbrough's piano and Tomas Ulrich's cello blend on the unison melody of saxophonist Michael Blake's piece "Harlem River Line," the one track not written by Allison. For that matter, listen to the end of Blake's piece, when bass and drums drop out, leaving only the horns to state the theme while Kimbrough decorates it with subtle piano fills. This is a band that knows how to surprise listeners at every turn. Other highlights include Blake's simultaneous tenor/soprano solo on the folksy waltz "Weazy," Ulrich's beautiful work on the polytonal ballad "Charlie Brown's Psychedelic Christmas," Allison's alternate-tuned bass vamp on "Tectonics," and drummer Jeff Ballard's injection of Elvin Jones into the Mingus-inspired "Love Chant Remix." The brief prelude to "Tectonics," titled "Mysterious Visitor," is another a refined touch that contributes to the seamless flow of the record. Ben Allison is one of the few young players and composers to transcend the futile debate between jazz traditionalists and radicals. He is following his own instincts, meeting the demands of the tradition while developing his own increasingly recognizable sound. With this fine album, he ascends another rung on the ladder of greatness and validates the artistic vision that brought his organization, the Jazz Composers Collective, into being.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/9/2001
  • Label: Palmetto Records
  • UPC: 753957206727
  • Catalog Number: 2067

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel Primary Artist
Ben Allison Indexed Contributor, Bass
Frank Kimbrough Piano, Prepared Piano
Michael Blake Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone
Tomas Ulrich Cello
Ron Horton Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Jeff Ballard Drums
Ted Nash Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone
Technical Credits
Matt Balitsaris Executive Producer
Ben Allison Composer, Producer, Liner Notes, Artwork
Michael Blake Composer
A.T. Michael MacDonald Mastering
Joe DiMaggio Illustrations
Jazz Composers Collective Producer
David Baker Engineer
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