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Chicago Reader

On Rotational Templates (New Focus), his 2011 debut recording, New York guitarist Travis Reuter takes after saxophonist Steve Lehman: his music is likewise thorny and rigorous, full of elaborate harmonies, twisty structures, and tricky rhythms, and like Lehman he borrows from contemporary classical composers (in Reuter’s case they include “new complexity” proponent Brian Ferneyhough). Bassist Chris Tordini and Little Women drummer Jason Nazary render the album’s funky, shape-shifting grooves with pinpoint precision, while tenor saxophonist Jeremy Viner slaloms surefootedly through their knotty rhythms and electric pianist Bobby Avey drops in splashes of surprising color. Reuter, whose processed sound recalls John Abercrombie’s, alternates between oblique harmonic movement—on the opener, “Vacancy at 29,” he contributes ghostly long tones that hover over the kinetic action beneath him—and fluid, zigzagging lines as deft as Viner’s. The compositions are heady and difficult, with dizzying unison passages and shattered-glass counterpoint, and their ever-changing contexts provide a surplus of raw material for improvisation. For his local debut Reuter brings an entirely different band—tenor saxophonist Mike Bjella, bassist Karl McComas Reichl, and drummer Danny Sher (who has worked frequently with Reuter). Not only am I curious about how this music will sound live, I have to wonder how these players will tackle such challenging pieces with only a couple weeks to prepare.—Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

Gapplegate Guitar and Bass

NY-based guitarist Travis Reuter shows us that there is more than one way to take fusion rock into more abstract territory. His Rotational Templates (New Focus 117) unfolds in long composed angular juxtipositions that start with the implications of a rock beat, then break up that beat into forward chopped segments that the rhythm section takes up. Against that are guitar-tenor-Rhodes countermelodies that fracture along the lines of the rhythm, but extend the thickness of the music and the momentum of the beat segments. Or at least that’s what I hear. It has a counterpart in the chopped bop that young trumpeter Peter Evans is putting across in such an interesting manner (see my Gapplegate Music Blog for various reviews of his work). Neither is imitating the other. The results are different as is the sound of the band. But there is a kind of convergence (and the M-Base folks have done some chopped funk over the years too, but perhaps with a little more forward thrust).

It’s a music with room for some excellently conceived solos. Travis has plenty of facility and a stretched har-melodic sense that he unleashes with drive, energy and a recognizably original sound. Jeremy Viner on tenor and Bobby Avey on electric piano bring in their own restless sorts of melodic modulations. Chris Tordini’s bass and Jason Nazary’s drums give what goes on its definition through some impressively executed chop kicks, relentless in their consistent push, building a kind of excitement that makes the plain places rough in a sort of over-all fashion.

If that sounds complicated to you, the hearing of the music is not a difficult experience. There is sense to it all. Its consistency is the key that unlocks the complexity, revealing pattern and development within a sort of sameness.Travis has something very interesting going on with this one. He plays in a kind of personal expanded tonality in ways that are exciting. His band has grabbed onto what he is into and in that way they speak as one.

Wow. If you dig the out electric thing this will hit you right in the breadbasket. It’s a winning combination of factors and Travis Reuter is a musical sensibility that bears close watching!

–Grego Applegate, Gapplegate Guitar and Bass

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Urban Flux

Visionary, composer and guitarist Travis Reuter has sculpted an impressive canvas of inimitable, expressive and complex tones co-exist in the body of improvised music on his latest offering “Rotational Templates.”

As I listen to the heartfelt yet multifaceted entities exposed throughout I had to take a closer look at what this involves and look beyond the scope of his technical ability to grasp the idea that this music was not merely comprise for technique purposes alone but most importantly the music comes from his heart!

From my perspective, “Rotational Templates” contains five infallible nuggets that are harmonically challenging. Moreover, this repertoire of songs is brilliantly executed by this multi-talented ensemble via their inventiveness and meticulous dialogue enabled them to transmit these odd-measured and impressionistic shapes and form them in a way the average listener can encompass this abstract soundscape.

Reuter’s affinity to record music of this caliber transcends the norm, his experimental voice will indeed challenge each listener. With that said, while listening I labored to engage myself in the rigorous artifacts that reside in “Vacancy at 29 and Residency at 20 (part1). Meanwhile, wooed by their prowess I’m amazed by these musicians as they take these songs into the hemisphere where the elements (bare with me) of Hendrix crashes into the uncompromising voicing’s of Monk to eventually flow with inexhaustible energy.

The only downside of this brilliant excursion by Travis Reuter and company, he serves up less then forty-minutes of playing time. On the other hand, this is certainly not and issue I was thrilled with two of my favorite pieces on the project titled “Flux Derivatives” along with the closing track “Residency at 20 (2)” both are composites generally found in the intricate textures of jazz as it meets the sonics of fusion to reflect the descriptive tones of improvised music. The genius and incomparable artistry of Travis Reuter should be given serious consideration because his gift, talent and virtuous contribution to improvised jazz is indeed admirable.

–Rob Young, The Urban Flux

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Wayside Music

Everyone here remembers Danny Sher, right? Right? Sigh. Anyway, at the very beginning of 2011, Danny contacted me about carrying his self-released first album, which was a fantastic, complex electric jazz release, all by terrific musicians I had never heard of. The guitarist was Travis Reuter and here is Travis with his own debut. Featured on this disc in addition to Travis are Jeremy Viner-tenor sax, Bobby Avey-Fender Rhodes, Chris Tordini-bass and Jason Nazary-drums. This is modern electric jazz at its finest, reminiscent of some of Ben Monder’s work as a leader but with a more electric/progressive edge and also more of a ‘rehearsal intensive avant-progressive’ flair; think of electric jazz as filtered through the complexity of Blast and you have an idea of what this is about. Interesting meters and modes and inspired soloing zip by and the playing is unbelivably first rate. If intricate, really, really tricky electric jazz/rock sounds like your kind of thing, this comes HIGHLY recommended.

–Steve Feigenbaum, Wayside Music

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Lucid Culture

Hmmm…does Rotational Templates – the title of jazz guitarist Travis Reuter’s new album – mean “basic plan for solos around the horn?” No. It’s not clear what it means, but this pretty meticulously thought-out album is a great ipod listen, and as cerebral as it is, there’s feeling along with all the ideas. It’s hard to pigeonhole, a good sign: you could call it psychedelic improvisational postbop. Reuter is a thoughtful player with a tremendous command of unexpectedly non-guitarish textures. What becomes obvious only a few minutes into this album is that he really knows how to seize the moment, but also when to let the moment go because it’s over. He’s got a good band: Jeremy Viner on tenor sax, Chris Tordini on bass, Bobby Avey taking a turn on electric piano this time out and Jason Nazary on drums.

The first track sets the stage: Viner and Tordini carry the central theme as Nazary roves and prowls, Reuter providing nebulous atmospherics via a swooshy effect. He parallels the sax and then finally comes up acidally, bouncing off the rest of the band as Avey takes a turn in the shadow position. The second cut is the first of a diptych. Residency at 20, Part 1 introduces an off-center, circular theme that Viner pokes at suspiciously, Tordini signaling an absolutely delicious, otherworldly, icily ambient guitar interlude (is that a backward masking pedal?) that eventually begins to smolder and then throw off sparks as Reuter edges his way out of the morass.

The most mathematical number here is Singular Arrays, a blippy ensemble piece featuring some sly roundabout work from Nazary and a judiciously sinuous solo from Avey imbued with his signature gravitas that gives the song some welcome muscle. When Reuter starts bobbing and weaving, the spiky thicket of notes makes it impossible to tell the guitar from the piano. Its cousin track, Flux Derivatives uses the skeletal outline of a ballad to frame resolute solos from Viner and Avey, Reuter taking his time before spiraling up and bringing up the heat. The album closes with the second part of Residency at 20, Avey left to hold this together as the drums shuffle off on their own, Reuter adding a couple of amusing quotes, with Avey rocking the boat to the point where Reuter turns it loose with an unexpected, unrestrained joy. Good ideas, good playing, five guys at the top of their game.

Lucid Culture

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