Bobby Previte's Claude's Late Morning is a pivotal release in the composer/drummer's early career as a bandleader, signifying his ability to break from somewhat conventional jazz instrumentation (as in Bump the Renaissance and Pushing the Envelope) and — with great success — write for an ensemble featuring a wide array of both acoustic and electronic instruments. Perhaps most striking is Previte's skill in composing music that fully integrates these disparate instruments — including drums and drum machine, electric guitar and keyboards, trombone, harp, accordion, banjo, pedal steel guitar, tuba, and harmonica — while emphasizing each instrument's unique, individual sound. The opening number, "Look Both Ways," displays what could be considered a signature Previte style; he builds the piece from fragments — short riffs, glissandos, minimalist ostinatos, and a handful of chords — all of which fit into a sonic puzzle held together by his driving, thrashing percussion. The result has multi-layered depth that draws the listener in, while of course maintaining hard-charging forward momentum (and, it should be mentioned, providing room for a screaming Bill Frisell guitar solo). "Sometimes You Need an Airport," with its infectious backbeat and polyrhythmic riffing, gives trombonist Ray Anderson a chance to cut loose, and also features some Hammond organ stylings from Wayne Horvitz that recall Joe Zawinul with early electric Miles Davis; Previte's love of the trumpeter's late-'60s and early-'70s music would later be on full display with his Miles repertory band the Horse (aka the Voodoo Orchestra). "The Voice" places a blistering solo from Frisell over hard-hitting accompaniment, suggesting a blues-rock band with undercurrents of the more ominously dramatic moments from Phillip Glass' Koyaanisqatsi. And then, at the album's midpoint, Previte loosens the reins and reveals the full extent of his skills as a composer in the contemporary avant-garde. The cinematic "Claude's Late Morning" is at turns focused and disorientingly ethereal; especially near the beginning, it has the uneasy sense of a pleasant dream on the verge of turning nightmarish. The darkness is held at bay, however, as the piece glides through beautiful, hovering passages (prominently featuring Guy Klucevsek's moody accordion) before drawing to an understated close. Banjo, pedal steel, harp, and country-tinged piano next color "First Song for Kate," a venture into Americana that wouldn't be out of place on a Frisell record from a decade or so later. In the lovely and reserved "Ballet," the many instruments pirouette in nearly minimalist fashion around shifting rhythmic pulses; there are no drums, and Previte is featured only on marimba this time around. "Look Both Ways" is reprised near the conclusion of Claude's Late Morning and, as the album draws to a close, its sense of cohesion despite the juggling of diverse styles seems all the more remarkable. This is an essential recording for those interested in Bobby Previte's range as a composer and bandleader; it remains one of his strongest and most appealing recordings in a career that would have many peaks to follow.
Dave Lynch (All Music)