A member of Elliott Sharp's and Wayne Horvitz's ensembles,
Bobby Previte (1957)
found a bizarre compromise between ECM's baroque jazz and Frank Zappa's nonsensical rock on Bump The Renaissance (1986), for a jazz
quintet (Lenny Pickett on saxophone and clarinet,
David Hofstra on bass, Richard Schulman on piano, Tom Varner on French horn)
and running the gamut from avantgarde to jazz to rock to blues to ragtime music,
and on Pushing The Envelope (1987), featuring Hofstra, Varner, Wayne Horvitz on keyboards and Marty Ehrlich on tenor sax.
The more electronic and "industrial" Dull Bang, Gushing Sound, Human Shriek (november 1986), entirely played by Previte on keyboards and percussion,
displayed his skills as an oneiric and apocalyptic arranger.
His eclectic and iconoclastic imagination was in full bloom on
Claude's Late Morning (1988), featuring
Horvitz, Bill Frisell on guitar, Joey Baron on drums, Ray Anderson on trombone,
Carol Emanuel on harp,
Guy Klucevsek on accordion (plus steel guitar and sampler),
Empty Suits (may 1990), a stylistic cauldron that reached back to his
chaotic beginnings with an expanded orchestration
(Robin Eubanks on trombone, Marty Ehrlich on alto sax, Elliott Sharp on guitar,
Carol Emanuel on harp,
David Shea on turntables, plus electronic keyboards, guitar, vocals, steel guitar).
His knack for assembling creative ensembles was also responsible for the
calmer, more complex and more melodic
Weather Clear Track Fast (january 1991), featuring
Don Byron and Marty Ehrlich on clarinets and saxophones,
Graham Haynes on cornet,
Anthony Davis on piano, Robin Eubanks on trombone,
Anthony Cox on bass.
His skills as a composer, on the other hand, emerged
from the humorous suite of Music of the Moscow Circus (august 1991),
featuring a typical electroacoustic chamber ensemble (violinist Mark Feldman, trumpeter Herb Robertson harpist Carol Emanuel, bassist Mark Helias, opera singers electronic keyboards and percussion),
from the four lengthy, intricate and anti-classical compositions (notably Fantasy And Nocturne, Walz and Prelude And Elegy) of Slay The Suitors (1994), credited to the Empty Suits (Eubanks, Horvitz, electronic keyboards, bass and percussion),
from the keyboards-heavy incursions into melodic jazz of Hue And Cry (december 1993), credited to Weather Clear Track Fast (Byron, Cox, Davis, Ehrlich, Eubanks, Haynes, and Larry Goldings on organ),
from the hysterical suites (Three Minute Heels, The Eleventh Hour, Box End Open End) of Too Close To The Pole (april 1996), that engaged a completely new ensemble (saxophone, trumpeter Cuong Vu, clarinet, keyboardist Jamie Saft, trombone, bass, percussion)
and from many other projects under different names,
each devoted to a different style.
Latin For Travelers' My Man In Sydney (january 1997) was progressive rock for an electric quartet with guitarist Marc Ducret, organist Jamie Saft and bassist Jerome Harris.
Bump's Just Add Water (june 2001) mimicked the playful, funky, bluesy sound of New Orleans' street bands (Ray Anderson on trombone, Joseph Bowie on trombone, Marty Ehrlich on tenor saxophone, Wayne Horvitz on piano, Steve Swallow on bass and Previte on drums).
Bump's Counterclockwise (october 2002) (Ehrlich, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, Horvitz, Swallow, Previte), retained the pulsation but deconstructed Previte's funk-blues-jazz fusion.
Groundtruther's Latitude (2004), a collaboration with guitarist Charlie Hunter and alto saxophonist Greg Obsy, was heavily electronic and percussive.
Previte's progressive embracing of neoclassical structures peaked with
The 23 Constellations of Joan Miro (2002), a suite of
23 lyrical chamber vignettes performed by an all-star cast.
After a humble career scoring movie, television, theater and dance soundtracks
for the New York intelligentsia, virtuoso
drummer Robert Previte (1957)
debuted on his own with Pull To Open (march 1980 - Zoar, 1980), a
collection of six pieces
Blues For Donna,
When You Get There,
recorded in the company of two wind players and a bassist.
Working with jazz, rock and funk musicians, Previte was emblematic of a
generation that tried to reconstruct a unity of styles rather than fine-tune
Bump The Renaissance (june 1985 - Sound Aspects, 1986), featuring
a quintet with
saxophonist Lenny Pickett,
pianist Richard Schulman,
bassist David Hofstra,
and Tom Varner on French horn,
is an eclectic, breathless orgy of ideas that promotes
Previte both as drummer and composer.
The breezy overture of Short Of Breath pulses madly like
some of Frank Zappa's best fanfares,
pounding and rumbling to lay the ground for an exuberant saxophone solo.
Art For Now owes more to polka parties and musichall skits than to
the orthodox tradition of jazz.
Cover The Earth offers an elegant combination of
fluid jazz-rock interplay and snappy quasi-ragtime rhythm.
In these festive "songs" Previte's acrobatic drumming propels
Pickett's melodic sax and Schulman's swinging piano into almost folk
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, the solemn Untitled
mixes the autunmnal atmosphere of bebop and the agonizing mood of blues music;
and 1958 is a mesmerizing application of
Michael Nyman's minimalist technique
to jazz, with an ascending saxophone and French horn pattern built around a
What is interesting about these slow and anemic pieces
(the somnolent Soundtrack is another one)
is that they come from
the same effervescent powerhorse.
Pickett shines throughout, and perhaps more on clarinet than sax (as Dark Ride abundantly proves).
Pushing The Envelope (april 1987 - Gramavision, 1987), with
saxophonist Marty Ehrlich,
pianist Wayne Horvitz,
Tom Varner and David Hofstra,
was a mature follow-up to Bump The Renaissance.
The martial and hypnotic fanfare of Open World replays the leitmotiv in
a circular, swirling manner, stirred by trembling piano and thundering drums.
Another marvel of controlled melody, Once, becomes a showcase of
Ehrlich's impeccable technique and Horvitz's expert chatter.
An eccentric peak is represented by the eleven-minute Pushing The Envelope,
with a cartoonish saxophone blaring like a duck, a French horn meditating
over a wavering piano, a chaotic interplay among all instruments with cascading
drums that increase the tension, and a passionate if confused finale.
Again, the combo's alter-ego pens the slower and melancholy
Ballad Noir (whose emotional zenith comes with the lengthy pauses of
the last minute) and the nonchalant, sly elegy
102 Degrees In The Shade, where Horvitz rolls down some of his best
Dopo un'umile carriera di colonne sonore per il cinema, la televisione,
il teatro e la danza nella zona di New York, Robert Previte (1957)
esordisce con Pull To Open (march 1980 - Zoar, 1980), sei brani
registrati con due fiatisti e un bassista.
Attivo nel jazz, nel rock, nel funk, Bobby Previte e' tipico protagonista
di quel jazz della ricostruzione che amalgama invece che disgregare.
L'album Bump The Renaissance (june 1985 - Sound Aspects, 1986)
e' un eclettico, incalzante tripudio di idee.
Previte vi si afferma come
batterista e compositore di un quintetto che annovera anche
sassofono e al clarinetto, David Hofstra al basso,
Richard Schulman al pianoforte e Tom Varner al corno francese.
Dall'ouverture di spessore orchestrale, rocambolescamente "zappiana", di
Short Of Breath alla gag da musichall di Art For Now,
dal minimalismo in espansione di 1958 alla placida anarchia dissonante di
Previte esalta il ruolo di ogni strumento secondo una prassi che e' piu' tipica
della musica classica che del jazz, mentre gli stili si ispirano alla cultura
popolare nera senza nessun riferimento privilegiato, mescolando le atmosfere
autunnali del bebop a quelle dolenti del blues (Untitled),
il ritmo scoppiettante del ragtime al pianismo liquido del jazz-rock
(Cover The Earth).
Gli da' man forte
Pickett, che reinventa uno stile al clarinetto in brani come Dark Ride.
a suo nome Pushing The Envelope (april 1987 - Gramavision, 1987),
David Hofstra, Tom Varner,
al sax tenore) fra una liquida jam come
Once e un tema sonnolento e swingante come
102 Degrees In The Shade si fanno largo anomalie come il
conciliabolo demenziale e appassionato della title-track e la fanfara marziale
e ipnotica di Open World. Previte prende le mosse dal jazz-rock
della ECM, contaminandolo con elementi della cultura rock e pop.
This article was originally written for an Italian-language book.
If English is your first language and you could translate the Italian text, please contact me.
Scroll down for recent reviews in english.
Opera assai piu' sperimentale,
Dull Bang, Gushing Sound, Human Shriek (Dossier, 1987),
una colonna sonora eseguita interamente da Previte alle tastiere e
mette in luce le sue
straordinarie doti di amalgamatore e catalizzatore con un sound onirico
e apocalittico che oscilla fra il razionalismo piu' freddo e l'irrazionale piu'
l'ossessivo minimalismo delle tastiere marchia a fuoco l'atmosfera d'oltretomba
di The Arrival, nella quale fluttuano periodicamente un fischiettio
atonale, una voce sintetizzata e una melodia elettronica,
mentre Turn The Corner e' un concerto "concreto" per rumori metallici che
si sovrappongono disarticolati in cascata senza alcuna logica.
Sonnolente onde elettroniche che si deformano all'infinito
(For Bunny), tornadi di percussioni violente e occulte (Dull Bang),
rumori naturali elaborati in studio fino a distillare puro magma sonoro
(Gushing Sound) fanno di quest'album un delirio indecifrabile, che si
spegne negli ipnotici tintinnii e ticchettii di Human Shriek, ancora in
un tripudio di suoni metallici e di ronzii elettronici.
E` l'album meno jazz della sua carriera.
Quello e` anche l'anno di
Nine Below Zero (Sound Aspects, 1987) con
Wayne Horvitz e
Del fervido eclettismo e della fantasia sbrigliata del compositore e
bandleader fa invece testo Claude's Late Morning
con Frisell, Horvitz, Joey Baron alla batteria, Ray Anderson alla tuba
(piu' fisarmonica, banjo, steel guitar, arpa), le cui piece
sono dedicate a stati d'animo e paesaggi sonori resi con un linguaggio
musicale che non e' il loro, ma che ha come referente semantico il loro:
One Bowl, una marcia funerea a passo di reggimento del
Far West che si stempera pero' in un caos di piccole dissonanze,
Claude's Late Morning, un triste tema per fisarmonica
alla Harry Mancini,
Ballet, una melodia ancor piu' dimessa degna dei musical di Broadway,
First Song For Kate, una commossa serenata country and western.
Capolavoro camaleontico dello stile soffice e prezioso di Previte e'
Sometimes You Need An Airport, che inizia con un tema cantabile della tuba
sostenuto dall'organo e finisce con i barriti dissennati del trombone
su degli staccato sinfonici delle tastiere elettroniche.
Alla moda panetnica Previte sacrifica soltanto
Look Both Ways, vertiginosa batucada brasiliana con accenti hawaiani,
e King So Far, afropop romantica e ipnotica alla King Sunny Ade.
Proprio questa e' pero' l'ispirazione di
Empty Suits (Gramavision, 1990),
dal tribalismo lussureggiante di Flying Buttress, in cui Previte si
ricorda di essere uno dei maggiori batteristi viventi,
al tropicalismo viscerale di Break The Cups, cantata in coppia con
Roberta Baum, con apice nei climi epici e tragici di
Across State Lines, degni di un Morricone del jazz-rock.
Al canzoniere delle tenere serenate di Previte va ad aggiungersi Pichl,
con il piano (Steve Gaboury) e il sassofono (Marty Ehrlich) che abbozzano la
melodia in una tenue filigrana di percussioni.
Il lato piu' sperimentale dell'arte di Previte sopravvive soltanto nei
nove minuti per lo piu' cacofonici di Great Wall, nei quali peraltro
il complesso riesce a non perdere il filo di un jazz-rock verace e violento.
L'etnopop di quest'opera quasi barocca conferma in realta' l'influenza di
Ornette Coleman: la preminenza della composizione sull'improvvisazione, lo
spirito africano delle armonie, il ritmo pesante e quasi funky. Al tempo
stesso Previte stabilisce un aggancio naturale fra il percussionismo ipnotico
del folk africano e l'iterazione ossessiva del minimalismo, fra la
struttura a mosaico delle danze rituali del primo e le piece circolari del
(Robin Eubanks on trombone, Steve Gaboury on
keyboards, Jerome Harris on bass,
Allan Jaffee on electric guitar, Roberta Baum on vocals, Carol Emanuel on
harp, Marty Ehrlich on alto sax, Elliott Sharp on guitar, David Shea on turntables, Skip Krevens on pedal steel guitar).
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Previte drummed for the ensembles of
Covert Action (New Note, 1989) is Tom Varner, Mike Richmond, Bobby Previte, but it doesn't include any Previte composition.
Corporate Art (JMT, 1991) is a trio with bassist Mark Helias and guitarist Christy Doran, and it includes two Previte compositions (Blood Sugar 360, Theme For W).
A new ensemble with Anthony Davis on piano, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Anthony Cox on bass, Graham Haynes on cornet, and Don Byron and Marty Ehrlich on clarinets and saxophones, yielded
Weather Clear Track Fast (Enja, 1991), one of his best, containing
seven sophisticated and unpredictable pieces.
Davis' sullen piano notes open Quinella (9:05). The saxophone intones
the melodic theme, propelled by Previte's effortless drumming. Suddenly, the
piece drowns and restarts with Eubanks' trombone in the lead. After a brief
fanfare of the clarinets, the piece closes in a melancholy mood with a duet
between Ehrlich's flute and Davis' piano.
The band's manifesto, Weather Clear Track Fast, is a buzzing, breakneck
dance that highlights the brio of these intellectuals, a collective brio
matched later in the spirited Photo Finish (7:18) and
almost parodied in the closer, Weather Cloudy Track Slow (7:12),
where the lead instruments seem to play argue with each other.
Previte's busy drumming sets the lazy mood of
Traffic Along The Rail (11:43). After a surreal duet between bass clarinet and baritone saxophone, the magnificent interplay and solos keep this piece
into a limbo, just barely this side of dissonance and just barely this side
of fragmentation, in a delicate balance of the expected and the unexpected.
This band sometimes has three, four, five lead instruments at the same time.
The leitmotiv of 3/4 Pole (6:45) is distributed among a few of them,
so that none can be said to be playing a melody, although the overall effect
is one of a romantic melody.
By comparison the swinging Backstretch (7:23) sounds old-fashioned,
as the instruments take turns at penning the melody.
The album bridges tradition and modernism in a non-traumatic manner.
Music For The Moscow Circus (Gramavision, 1991)
is a minor exercise in the style of Bump The Renaissance,
featuring Jerome Harris on guitars, Mark Helias on bass, Steve Gaboury on
keyboards, Carol Emanuel on harp, Mark Feldman on violin, Herb Robertson on
trumpet, Roger Squitero on percussion, and Elliott Sharp on sampler,
and was meant to accompany acrobats, jugglers, clowns, tight-rope walkers, etc.
The chaotic and pompous Overture seems to parody Mussorgsky,
with Robertson's trumpet fibrillating almost baroque over orchestral samples.
The piano vignette The Russian Bar,
the deconstructed funk music of One Hand On The Wheel,
the lengthy violin-driven fantasia of Spring Beauty And The Muse,
the exotic ballet of Spring Steps Out,
the tidal suspense of The Melody
and the Seven Alarm
are all partially intriguing, but hardly cohesive.
In fact, it doesn't sound like Previte at all.
The Empty Suits featured Robin Eubanks on trombone and electronics,
Wayne Horvitz on piano,
Steve Gaboury on keyboards,
Jerome Harris on guitar and bass,
and Roger Squitero on additional percussion on
Slay The Suitors (june 1993 -Avant, 1994), another significant addition
to Previte's canon. Its four lengthy compositions (all by Previte)
share a cinematic quality, an undercurrent of suspense and mystery.
Fantasy And Nocturne (16:15) is permeated by a sense of
nervous uncertainty that accounts for dissonant episodes and for the general
inability to coalesce. The funky surges of guitar and electronics are
balanced by Horvitz's wise and calm piano notes that only at the very
end allow the music to swell.
A petulant synthesizer that imitates a rock guitar solo emerges from a
blurred landscape in Walz (13:39), a piece that evokes jazz-rock styles
of the 1970s.
Canon (9:41) is an abstract, loose, pointillistic fresco, created by a
delicate balance of percussion, trombone and piano that gets out of control
only in the final Latin-tinged bacchanal.
For the first six minutes Prelude And Elegy (14:32) is virtually a piano
sonata before syncopated percussion and funky bass open the gate to the
trombone and the organ to engage in a lively jam. However, the music soon
plunges in one of Previte's trademark pauses, leaving the piano to mutter his
dejected aria alone.
By now Previte had trapped his "pop" alter-ego in cold and arithmetic
The Weather Clear Track Fast project was continued on
Hue And Cry (Enja, 1994) with
Don Byron on clarinet and saxophone, Cox on bass, Davis on piano, Ehrlich on clarinet, saxophone and flute, Eubanks on trombone, replacing Eddie Allen with Graham Haynes on cornet and adding Larry Goldings on organ.
Move Heaven And Earth (6:04),
700 Camels (14:11),
Hue And Cry (13:03),
and For John Laughlan (7:15),
all composed by Previte,
are spectacular incursions into keyboards-heavy melodic jazz.
Too Close To The Pole (april 1996 - Enja, 1996) introduced a new ensemble: Lindsey Horner on bass, Andy Laster on saxophone, clarinet and flute, Cuong Vu on trumpet, Jamie Saft on piano and organ, Curtis Hasselbring on trombone, Andrew d'Angelo on clarinets.
The main compositions are a
13-minute 3 Minute Heels,
a 14-minute The Eleventh Hour, and
a 16-minute Box End Open End.
Euclid's Nightmare (Depth Of Field, 1997) contains
27 untitled duets between Previte (on drums) and
John Zorn (on sax).
Previte then formed an electric quartet, Latin For Travelers, with
guitarist Marc Ducret, organist Jamie Saft and bassist Jerome Harris.
My Man In Sydney (january 1997 - Enja, 1997)
This was the closest Previte ever got to Canterbury's progressive-rock.
In The Grass (Enja, 1998), duets with guitarist Marc Ducret, even enters
the realm of funk, disco and hip-hop. It includes Previte's
11-minute And The Rest Are What They Are.
Downtown Lullaby (Depth Of Field, 1998) is an amazing waste of talents.
Previte, John Zorn,
Elliott Sharp and Wayne Horvitz
improvised live in the studio, but couldn't come up with anything better
than seven jams that sound very much like the same trivial idea repeated over
and over again.
Dangerous Rip (july 1998 - Enja, 1998) is another jam-oriented live album by Latin For Travelers.
Clear The Bridge, You Tell Me, Bobby's New Mood and
Open Jaw (the four most substantial jams) and a medley of surf-music
are lively and entertaining, but hardly revolutionary.
Ponga is a quartet of four bandleaders: keyboardists Dave Palmer and
Wayne Horvitz, drummer Bobby Previte, and saxophonist Skerik. They released
Ponga (Loosegroove, 1998) and
Psychological (P-vine, 2000), which offer straightforward funk-jazz jams.
The light divertissment of Bump The Renaissance was continued with Bump, a project that originally featured Ray Anderson on trombone, Joseph Bowie on trombone, Marty Ehrlich on tenor saxophone, Wayne Horvitz on piano, Steve Swallow on bass and Previte on drums, and that played in the vein of New Orleans' street bands. Just Add Water (june 2001 - Palmetto, 2001) is funky, bluesy and playful, except for
the two most ambitious tracks,
Put Away Your Crayons and Everything I Want.
The second album credited to Bump
(tenor saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, bassist Steve Swallow and Previte on drums),
Counterclockwise (october 2002 - Palmetto, 2002),
retained the pulsation but abstracted the funk substance.
The elegant aerial duels between Ehrlich and Fowlkes adorn Previte's
funk-jazz workout (877 Soul, Counterclockwise).
Previte's progressive embracing of neoclassical structures peaked with
The 23 Constellations of Joan Miro (july 2001 - Tzadik, 2002), a suite of
23 lyrical chamber vignettes performed by an all-star cast
(Previte on drums, John Bacon
on percussion, chimes, marimba, vibraphone and bells,
Ralph Alessi and Lew Soloff on trumpet and flugelhorn,
Michel Gentile on flute,
Ned Rothenberg on bass clarinet,
Jane Ira Bloom on soprano saxophone,
Wayne Horvitz on keyboards,
Jamie Saft on piano, celeste and electronic organ,
Elizabeth Panzer on harp
Joe Barbato on accordion).
The Escape Ladder,
People at Night,
Women on the Beach,
Woman With Blond Armpit Combing Her Hair,
Woman and Birds,
Woman in the Night,
The Nightingale's Song at Midnight,
On the 13th The Ladder Brushed the Firmament,
Awakening in the Early Morning,
Toward the Rainbow,
Women Encircled by the Flight of a Bird,
Women at the Border of a Lake,
The Migratory Bird,
Ciphers and Constellations in Love With a Woman,
The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unkown,
The Rose Dusk Caresses the Sex of Women and Birds,
The Passage of the Divine Bird.
Prisoner's Dilemma (Gross, 2003) was a collaboration with Sharp.
Latitude (Thirsty Ear, 2004), the first album in a trilogy credited to
Groundtruther, a collaboration between guitarist Charlie Hunter and drummer
Bobby Previte featuring alto saxophonist Greg Obsy,
North Pole "tunes" the musicians with its concerto for
transfigured instrumental tones.
The trio excels at mixing contrasting voices:
Arctic Circle mixes pounding funk rhythm, skipping guitar noises and fibrillating saxophone melodies; Tropic Of Cancer blends backbeats, synth whistles, acid reverbs, African percussion and petulant guitar;
Anarctic Circle is a subtle kammerspiel in which the "voices" talk to
each other and satisfy each other's curiosity.
But they also show glimpses of their ability to pen
atmospheric roots-music (the swamp blues 40th Parallel,
drenched in Jon Hassell-ian fourth-world
ambience; the electro-funk jam Equator).
Hunter dominates the proceedings with his supernatural guitar tones.
Too bad that half of the pieces sound rather inferior, as if they were
kept mainly to reach the minimum length for an album.
the second part of the "Groundtruther" trilogy,
is another collaboration between Charlie Hunter and Bobby Previte,
this time also featuring DJ Logic,
but the result is rather shallow and bland.
Coalition of the Willing (september 2005 - Rope-a-Dope, 2006) is a tribute of sorts
to rock music of the 1980s, featuring guitarist Charlie Hunter.
The New Bump (Ellery Eskelin on tenor, Steve Bernstein on trumpet, Bill Ware on vibraphone, Brad Jones on bass, Jim Pugliese on percussion) debuted with
Set the Alarm for Monday (2008), one of this jazziest albums and one
designed specifically for the vibraphone.
Pan Atlantic (april 2009) documents a session
with Gianluca Petrella
(trombone), Wolfgang Puschnig (alto sax, baritone sax), Benoit Delbecq
(Fender Rhodes) and Nils Davidsen (electric bass).
Bang (august 1990) documents a live concert by
(alto sax), Mark Feldman (violin), Herb Robertson (trumpet and
flugelhorn), Percy Jones (electric bass), Matteo Ederle (keyboards), and
Bobby Previte (drums).
The New Standard (Rare Noise, 2014) features the trio of Jamie Saft, drummer Bobby Previte and bassist Steve Swallow.
Bobby Previte launched the project "Terminals", basically his So Percussion quartet with Nels Cline (guitar), John Medeski (piano and organ) and Zeena Parkins (electric and acoustic harp), on Five Concertos For Percussion Ensemble And Soloist (january 2014), originally premiered in march 2011.
the Charlie Hunter Trio, featuring Bobby Previte on percussion and Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, returned with Let The Bells Ring On (february 2015).
Previte played drums, pipe organ, Farfisa organ, guitar and synthesizer on
Mass (june 2016), somewhat based on
Guillaume Dufay's Missa Sancti Jacobi and featuring
an eleven-member vocal ensemble and
four guitarists (Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley, Earth's Don McGreevy, Mike Gamble, Jamie Saft) plus organist
Marco Benevento and bassist Reed Mathis.
Previte also played on Loneliness Road (june 2016) with pianist Jamie Saft, bassist Steve Swallow, and rock vocalist Iggy Pop.
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