The end of October is a transitory time in the Northcountry. The fall peaks early here and the extremes of its weather are often sharp, as an Indian summer day can be blown away 24 hours later by a temperature drop, fast-moving clouds, and wet snow. And it’s a transitory time for CIMP as well, as we ready our last releases of the year and schedule the year’s last recording in The Spirit Room. This date was our last for 1998.
The heart of Free Range Rat began to pump in January 1997 when John Carlson (Greencastle, IN - 1959) began gigging as a duo with Eric Hipp (Albuquerque, NM - 1965). Then Shawn McGloin (New London, CT – 1957) made it a trio. As the repertoire developed, so did a growing interest in the music of Sun Ra which in turn encouraged further group expression and, by the early Spring of ’97, Scott Neumann (Bartlesville, OK – 1962) came around, completing the group.
This is a group that has developed outside of commercial concerns. They play, with some regularity, mostly outside the more highly profiled corridors. And, because of the pressure avoided by their stepping outside the main thoroughfare, they have developed their music on their terms. They explore what they want and suggest a purity in approach not out of some heavy manifesto but simply because, for the most part, they don’t concern themselves with a system that imposes the suggestion of compromise. It would seem that as Free Range Rat they have arrived in the most important way: artistically.
There is a freshness in this group that was apparent to me from the start, when John sent me a demo, as an almost apologetic afterthought after he had recorded here as part of the Charlie Kohlhase group (CIMP 172). And my sense was that the group was a bit taken aback when, as a result, I suggested we record them. My unvoiced concern was that, in approaching a formal “recording session,” they might begin to view the opportunity with a self-conscious seriousness and retreat to the safe and predictable. Fortunately, this is not the case. Let’s face it, if you haven’t bought in, you can’t sell out. The freshness of their disruptive unity is still very much intact and comes through here strong, clear and with inspiration.
These guys can sprint and long distance with the best of them, but I’m not sure they’d sign up for the race. Free Range Rat is about music. Damn the system: full speed ahead. It is a non-race where we all win.
Robert D. Rusch – 10/21/98