Adam Rudolph is the mad percussionist who teamed with Cindy Blackman to give the Bitches Brew anniversary band its iron-pumping foundation, and his 2009 release Dream Garden took one aspect of Miles Davis' visionary concept -- the startling percussion of Don Alias and Airto Moreira -- and blew it up a thousandfold. The result was one of the most galvanizing discs of 2009, and I truly believed Rudolph couldn't top it, in either quality or insanity. Both/And proves me wrong on both counts as it blasts Miles even further into the 21st century.
"Return of the Magnificent Spirits" barely has its drum line established when blasts of dissonant harmonica pin you around, making you wonder what you've stumbled into: the salt pans of Botswana or some dystopian nightmare that's a cross between Blade Runner and Rudolph's native Chicago. Horns and woodwinds suddenly call out to you, while Ralph M. Jones' ice-cool flute and Graham Haynes' piercing trumpet let you know it's all good, if not all right. The urge is to dance to the waves of sound that come at you from all around; if anything, it seems like your best chance for survival, because this music may not be fun, but it's as intense as it gets.
The multi-cultural gumbo (which Rudolph refers to as "Cyclic Verticalism") gets thicker as blues meets Bombay on "Love's Light," and then Chicago's music gets dangerously twisted when plucked strings whirl around honking harp and hissing horns on "Blues in Orbit." The strings assume a "traditional" role over Jones' haunting reeds on "Tree Line (Call)," but find a darker, hungrier path on "Tree Line (Response)," the haunting Yusef Lateef tribute "Interiors" and the fever-dream title track. In between are three pieces of the kinda-sorta suite "Dance Drama," each one setting you free in a completely different way. The distant woodwinds at the end of "DD4" could be a container ship about to run you down, but you simply won't care.
By the time Both/And is finished with you, your brainpan will think it's just done a triathlon. There's so much detail, so much information, and such vast quantities of brilliance and vision that any attempt to catalog or pigeon-hole it will be time you could have spent recovering… or, maybe, going for another run. Both/And is not Bitches Brew, but they share that same indefinable quality that makes you love 'em or hate 'em. Then again, sitting on a fence hurts after a while, and look what happens to anything that stays in the middle of the road too long.