“The Rub And Spare Change” is the remarkable ECM debut of Michael Formanek, creative improvising bassist, resourceful jazz composer, and bandleader able to bring forth inspired performances from his cohorts. The album features a new band which nonetheless draws upon years of shared experiences. When Formanek assembled his quartet for a set at New York City club The Stone in August 2008, the forceful spirit of the performance convinced him that this was an ensemble that needed to be documented on disc. The quartet was duly recorded in June 2009 in Hampton, New Jersey, and the music then mixed with Manfred Eicher at New York’s Avatar Studios, spirit very much intact.
An enormously experienced artist, Michael Formanek (born in 1958 in San Francisco) has played with innumerable musicians in the course of his 35 year career. At 19, he was a member of Tony Wiliams’ Lifetime.
Since he has collaborated with Freddie Hubbard, Stan Getz, Marty Ehrlich, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Dave Liebman, Joe Henderson, Mark Isham, Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Big Band, Terumasa Hino, Cedar Walton, George Coleman, Jane Ira Bloom, Bob Moses, Peter Erskine, Joe and Mat Maneri, Gary Thomas, Harold Danko, Dave Burrell, Evan Parker, Elvis Costello, and many others. He has been valued in these contexts for the completeness of his bass work. He combines highly adventurous playing with the traditional jazz functions of rhythmic and harmonic understanding...as did the late, great Charles Mingus. (And indeed, Formanek has also played bass with the Mingus Big Band.)
Michael Formanek has played with altoist Tim Berne on many occasions over the last two decades. They first joined forces in the bassist’s project Wide Open Spaces in 1991, and shortly thereafter collaborated in Berne’s Bloodcount band.
In and out of each other’s ensembles since then, they’ve also played and recorded as a duo. Formanek has furthermore toured and recorded with projects led, co-led or featuring pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver, and they, in turn, have a long history of mutual collaboration. Cleaver has also played often with Berne, and Taborn has been a member of Berne’s Hard Cell group. (When last heard from on ECM, Berne and Taborn were both members of a David Torn group.)
Craig Taborn, like brilliant drummer Gerald Cleaver, first appeared on ECM in 1997, as a member of Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory (”Nine To Get Ready”). Taborn has also been heard on ECM with Transatlantic Art Ensemble co-led by Mitchell and Evan Parker (“Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3”, “Boustrophedon”), and on David Torn’s “Prezens” (which also features Tim Berne).
Gerald Cleaver is currently a member of the Miroslav Vitous Quartet and can be heard on Miroslav’s ECM discs “Universal Syncopations II” and “Remembering Weather Report”.