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