AMN Reviews: Threadbare – Silver Dollar (2020; NoBusiness Records)

Ostensibly free improv, Threadbare is so much more. A trio consisting of Chicagoans Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Ben Cruz on guitar, and Emerson Hunton on drums, Silver Dollar is their debut recording. Notable is that the veteran Stein leaves the writing credits to the relatively younger talents of Cruz and Hunton. This turns out to be an interesting move, as the latter duo is more than capable.

Like so many musicians who have come up in the last two decades, Cruz and Hunton blend styles effortlessly and eschew any preconceived rigid notions of what might be proper. This is laid out clearly in the first two tracks, where Cruz’s And When Circumstances Arise harkens to tightly-structured avant-rock while Hunton’s Threadbare 02 begins in an open and textural fashion before evolving into an angular duel between Stein and Cruz.

Indeed, Cruz’s rock leanings as well as his rhythmic sophistication can be found on the three other pieces he pens, including the absolutely monstrous title track. This effort involves a deep staccato droning from Stein and Cruz with Hunton all over the map. Cruz chords out a rough melody for a Stein solo in what ultimately comes across as a rather aggressive and powerful form of dirge.

Hunton sticks with a looser approach though isn’t afraid to provide an off-kilter beat on 24 Mesh Veils. Threadbare is fairly free, however, moving into a tense groove over which Stein and Cruz can extemporize.  The final track is credited to both Cruz and Hunton, and involves quiet atmospherics with soft yet jagged leads that build to a suitable crescendo.

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