Fred Hersch The Fred Hersch Trio Plays... (Chesky, 1994) Given the longevity of pianist Fred Hersch's trio with Rainey and bassist Drew Gress, the band left few recordings to mark its live-wire chemistry. This one features the band setting its own stamp on familiar tunes by Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and others. The lyricism comes in broad strokes, but listen closely for the sense of play with which Rainey always animated this trio.
New and Used Consensus (Knitting Factory, 1995) Rainey actually enjoyed a rare composer credit on this all-star collective's earlier release, Souvenir (also on Knitting Factory). But the band's second and last album displays an increased assurance in both its compositions -- by Dave Douglas, Andy Laster, Mark Feldman and Kermit Driscoll -- and its interplay as a bona fide ensemble.
Tim Berne's Paraphrase Visitation Rites (Screwgun, 1998) One of the earliest documents of the long-form free fantasies spun by Berne, Rainey and bassist Drew Gress, Visitation Rites also remains among the most potent examples of this trio's empathic interplay. The disc's three long cuts capture perfectly the band's uniquely potent balance of improvisational sprawl and composerly gesture.
Tim Berne Science Friction (Screwgun, 2002) If Rainey has proven to be the perfect foil for the long arches of tension and release in Berne's free improvisations and long-form compositions, Science Friction - which teamed the two with guitarist Marc Ducret and keyboardist Craig Taborn - also proves that Rainey has become the most sympatico animator of Berne's dense, itchy funk compositions. Even in a tighter format, there's no reining in the drummer's imagination.
Mark Helias Verbs of Will (Radio Legs, 2002) Rainey has worked with bassman Mark Helias for years, driving both his more compositionally-oriented bands and his sprawling free-jazz trio Open Loose. The latest release by the latter demonstrates a greater concision of expression, like a gallon of black coffee distilled into a series of shots. Verbs of Will also demonstrates the potency of another burgeoning relationship: that of Rainey and rising young saxophonist Tony Malaby, who has used the drummer on three of his releases to date.