From the lyrical, swaying, accordion-laced guitar driven opening track “Double Edged Smile” through the intricate, hypnotic guitar-piano duality driving the closer “Dots,” RDL+’s Bay Area Bridges Compilation is sublimely unlike any other jazz trio album you’re likely to hear.
Collectively, the 14-tracks chosen by veteran Bay Area musicians Ruthie Dineen (piano), Doug Lee (bass) and Luis Salcedo (guitar) form a jazz based but ultimately genre-transcendent sampler of a vast single day released output of curated music (five CD length projects worth!) recorded throughout their popular four year long, pre-pandemic residency at Oakland’s Studio Grand. As their legions of fans who have seen them perform over the years can testify, RDL+ and its array of amazing guest artists (some non-musical, some represented on the sampler) is not a band to simply listen to. They are a seamless, intuitive chemistry filled unit to fully experience on deeper levels.
RDL+’s 2014 debut album Mas P’alla Va was a springboard into a spirited, freewheeling live performance experience which, in the band’s own words, maintains an aesthetic stemming from trad jazz but whose trademark is experimenting with and incorporating odd meters, timbre, form and fresh melodic ideas. While the group does its share of free jazz – the plucky, whimsical, recorded on the spot “Thanks” from the appropriately titled album Welcome to Way Out There is a perfect example – their sense of sonic adventure is always rooted in composed or arranged pieces.
“Thought written by each of us on his or her own,” Dineen says, “we often gave each other ideas on how to make them stronger or more engaging.” The compilation allows fans of eclectic jazz to experience bursts of magic from these incredible four years – with the clear intention of inviting them to immerse (when time allows!) in the totality of all five albums. To keep our ears attentive and our musical hearts and souls hopping, RDL+ chooses to keep the flow of the BAB Compilation more random from track to track than a strict album by album rundown.
The unexpected twists and turns are a big part of what makes this such an engaging and joyful experience. To help point the listener to the larger albums, however, it makes sense to break down the sampler tunes by the full-length projects they appear on. High Hopes blesses us with the fiery, densely percussive energy and sparkling old school keyboards of “High Hopes,” the snazzy, trumpet-tinged “Pink Ponk,” the pop/rock/jazz splendor of “Unwound Heart” (featuring the beautiful wordless vocals of Tiffany Austin), the moody, trippy guitar distortion of “What’s Your Function” and Latin-spiced fusion jam “Quadratic.”
The quirkily titled Bullfighters, Impresarios Even Delinquents is represented by the dreamy, meditational title track, “Double Edged Smile” and “Dots,” which is Saucedo’s cleverly syncopated interpretation of water dripping into a bucket. The two tracks from Time Unmoored are the haunting, sparsely arranged title song (featuring Austin’s emotional lead vocal) and the soulful romantic ballad “Siren Song” (with Michael Bang on lead vocal), while In Nature is represented by two dramatic, classical flavored and cello-kissed months (“February” and “June) and the tender, new agey “I Wanna Dance and Be Human,” based on Octavia Butler’s novel Dawn and featuring hand-claps and featuring singer Mia Pixley and multi-instrumentalist Aled Ordu. Enjoy the Bay Area Bridges Compilation, but do yourself a favor and start streaming the albums it derives from to get the full on RDL+ experience!