I like a new band dropping a little knowledge on me, even if it’s just discovering their name’s etymology. As it turns out, a rubblebucket is a tool used by stonemasons — a profession both drummer Andreas Brade and percussionist Craig Myers of Boston’s Rubblebucket Orchestra once practiced. Good to know. While that definition was but a Google search away, it proves far more difficult to define the band’s sound on their debut disc, Rose’s Dream . Equally challenging is avoiding any variation of the cliché, “rock-solid.”
The seeds of what would eventually become Rubblebucket Orchestra were planted in June 2007 at an impromptu Burlington Jazz Festival jam session featuring trumpeter Alex Toth of John Brown’s Body. Inspired by the all-night Afrobeat bonanza, Toth took to convening the rest of the ensemble, including fellow JBB vocalist-saxophonist Kalmia Traver, trombone player Adam Dotson and Derek Beckvold on baritone sax.
Brade lays down the beats on drums, joined by conga player Ari Diaconis and Myers, who in turn occasionally plays the n’goni, a type of West African lute. Rounding out the band are John Rogone on bass, guitarist David Sleininger and keyboardist Darby Wolf. The sonic result of all these players is a mix of soulful Afrobeat and funk with Latin leanings. It is a world-music feel and vibe that pretty much forces you to boogie in whatever fashion you can.
Rose’s Dream is impressively tight for a group that began recording just three weeks after its inception. Frenetic percussion and vibrant horns give the album a driving pace and upbeat timbre — think a more focused and horn-centric Rusted Root.
Traver’s lilting vocals often seem part of the instrumentation, rather than a means for delivering the album’s sparse lyrics. If Basia had been the front woman for a full band, the result might have sounded a bit like Rubblebucket Orchestra — especially on Latin-flavored tracks such as “World Is Gonna Drown” and “Rivers.”
Bouncing between styles and genres, sometimes within the same song, Toth and Co. make a concerted effort not to pigeonhole themselves — semi-obscure, Polish-jazz-pop-singer references aside. When an artist counts Bjork as one of his biggest influences, it’s safe to say his music will be anything but predictable. That holds true for Rose’s Dream n the best way possible.