Review by Brad Walseth
In Painting Time, Washinton D.C.-based percussionist Tom Teasley has crafted a colorful melange of world musical forms and sounds into a vibrant tapestry. Album opener "The Awakening" leaps out of the jungle and at the listener with ferocity. This mesmerizing composition features John Jensen on double bell euphonium and trombone, Chris Battistone on trumpet and Bruce Swaim on soprano sax punctuating the atmosphere above Teasley's hypnotic bed of marimba and percussion with unison jazz lines. Swaim also adds a wonderful flute solo to highlight the piece along with Teasley's tasteful percussive interjections.
"Amber Water" uses water sounds from Teasley's HandSonic touch-sensitive hand drum synthesizer as a percussive element, with the horns trading off long free lines over bassist James King's slinky groove and Teasley and guest drummer Nasar Abadey's interplay. The haunting "Sheba's Dream" features John Jensen on an eerie conch shell and trombone over Teasley on marimba again, along with cymbals and udu. The drummer's command of a wide range of percussion instruments is only matched by his ability and desire to use them in new and unusual configurations.
One of Teasley's interesting compositional ideas is to use traditional instruments and beats in surprising new contexts, for example using an instrument from one part of the world to play a beat from another. "Good Foot Dervish sounds like it could have come from James Brown's catalog, but with instruments like doumbek, gonkogi bell, riq and shakers involved, the urban groove is transported to the desert bazaar. "White Orchid," with its attractive hallucinatory sheen showcases Teasely on the electric gamelan and it is an appealing opium dream indeed. A true highlight, one can hope Teasely does more with this amazing instrument in the future.
The electric tabla provides percussive impetus on the delicious and fascinating "Snake Charmer," a song that lives up to its name by being both snaky and charming, while calling out the cobras on an urban backstreet. Battistone, who has cowriter credit on this song as well as much of the session, creates some frightening trumpet sounds - scary but good. Meanwhile "Know Diddley" uses the '50s rock-and-roller's trademark Cuban clave beat with a slew of unusual percussion elements to bring new life to the old familiar beat. The improvised "Hope Flows - Like Water" ends this engagingly polychromatic recording with a peaceful outro that engenders visions of the sun setting on the African savannah.
Using a bright and varied palette of sounds, Teasley and his fellow musicians have painted with time a rainbow-colored landscape that never settles for primary colors alone.