The quality of an album roughly depends on material for 75 percent; the other 25 percent is pacing. Rub Harder scores a hundred. The Hard Rubber Orchestra's first CD (Cruel Yet Fair, 1998) suffered from improper inclusions, a lack of focus, and colorless sound definition. This one is so much better -- and closer to the group's live performances. The music still explores an avant funk/big-band idiom: powerful, groovy, dissonant, and most of all cleverly constructed to the point that it verges on orchestral composition. Slipped between hot numbers are three softer tracks, soundscapes featuring the electric guitar of Ron Samworth and the cello of Peggy Lee. These breathers create a pace and allow the next piece to start smoother (particularly effective for the pensive "Chorale"). Leader John Korsrud penned some very strong music, of which "Time Waits" is the highlight. Its disjointed staccato lines give the impression of an orchestra heavily restrained and freed only half a second at a time. When finally allowed to play, it chooses Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" -- a unexpected twist. That piece and "Chorale" also feature Queen Mab (Marilyn Lerner, piano, and Lori Freedman, bass clarinet). Guest trumpeter Brad Turner provided two compositions. "Pursuance" couples a delicate stack of horn voices with raucous funk. Contributions by Jean Derome and René Lussier are also included and rank among the wittiest, most playful material performed on the CD. Derome's "The Amsterdam Trickster" arches back to his album Je Me Souviens. The orchestra performs tighter than before and is beautifully recorded. In short, Rub Harder is a fantastic album, a must for anyone into progressive big bands and followers of the Vancouver jazz scene.