Rudolph's group, Moving Pictures, is the manifestation of his own all-encompassing musical depth and breadth. Among its members are similarly-minded musicians, including acknowledged masters of African, Japanese, North African, and Indian musical traditions, a contingent of forward-thinking jazz musicians, and some who - like Rudolph himself - comfortably straddle both worlds. In the context of Rudolph's open-ended, multi-layered compositions, all of these different musical and cultural elements are more than just compatible - they are seamlessly interrelated. Cultural lines, while still evident, are less important than what happens at any given moment. On "Dream Garden," the emphasis is on the process of improvisation - whether it takes the form of a jazz improvisation or an Middle Eastern 'taksim' is a secondary consideration.
Despite the relatively large size of Rudolph's ensemble, Dream Garden emphasizes delicate sounds and spacious structures. There's a lovely balance of the electric and the acoustic here, as well. The slowly unfolding 'Twilight,' an excellent case in point, features Brahim Frigbane's beautifully nuanced oud solo over a shifting backdrop of molasses-slow multi-percussion, Flamenco-like strummed bass, and volume-pedal electric guitar swells. 'Cousin of the Moon' starts off like a continuation of 'Twilight,' until Hamid Drake's lithe, jazzy drumming launches Graham Haynes' trumpet solo into the stratosphere. 'A Vision of Pure Delight,' driven by an asymmetric guitar / oud / bass figure, sounds almost like a lost John McLaughlin track circa "My Goal's Beyond" - its beautiful minor-key melody spills over into another stellar Graham Haynes solo. As one might expect, several pieces are all about Rudolph's amazing percussion. These include the Ornette-inspired opener 'Oshogbo,' the madly skittering 'Spectral,' and the irrepressibly polyrhythmic 'The Sphinx.' The sunny, syncopated melody of 'Walking the Curve' evokes the spirit of Don Cherry who, like Rudolph, was gifted with an innate feel for diverse ethnic musics. For me, however, the CD's crowning highlight is its longest piece, 'Helix.' Ostensibly a feature for Kenny Wessel's stinging electric guitar, 'Helix' spirals upward on waves of improvisational energy, ignited by Rudolph's bubbling percussion and Drake's absolutely rocking drums.
On Dream Garden, Adam Rudolph and Moving Pictures dig deep to produce a recording that is essential listening, and one of the best CDs I heard in 2008. Though I've written a few paragraphs about it here, Dream Garden left me almost speechless. Rudolph's essentially warm, human music effortlessly transcends the boundaries of what we've come to expect of 'world music.' In so doing, he has created something that's truly modern, multi-ethnic, inspired, and inspiring.