Nick Mazzarella and Tomeka Reid acknowledge and embrace the obvious right away on Signaling with an arresting opening number “Blues for Julius and Abdul” that honors two pioneers of the duo format they favor. Hemphill and Wadud put alto and cello tandems on the musical map with their various concerts and recordings hatched in the Loft Jazz era. Mazzarella and Reid are worthy successors although reducing this studio recording down to easily identified antecedents risks missing the striking amount of originality that also informs the encounter. Jointly improvised, each of the nine pieces offers a wealth of inspired activity and interaction.
The gerund in the disc’s title isn’t just concerned with broadcasting influences. It’s also a germane watchword for the close communication that constantly transpires between Mazzarella and Reid and by after-the-fact proxy with the presumable (and hopefully broad) audience for this album. Pointillism reigns on the title piece with fractious fragments reluctantly coming together into a mosaic-like whole. “Like So Many Drops of Water” encompasses Reid’s exacting precision with pizzicato patterns through a lattice of percolating notes that cascade and trickle around Mazarella’s legato musings. Bow also comes regularly into play, but like Wadud before her Reid sounds just as formidable with fingers.
“Interstices” and “Topographies” echo the textural and connective intimations of their titles. The extended techniques employed on each are subtle and deferent to the diligent structure-building at the center of the players interplay. Mazzarella leaps agilely between registers as Reid bow strokes cantilever between strings, the two ranging from vociferous exclamations to murmured whispers. “The Ancestors Speak” features liquid alto in the foreground with Reid adding thrumming accents from the edges, a favor she repeats on the ruminative, rhythmically-diffuse “Rediscovery of an Age”. The pair closes curiously with the hymn-like “Invoking the Spirit”, a sentiment that seems better suited as a prefatory move. Once again expectations prove rightfully upended.