“Locustland” from Angel City Dust by Steuart Liebig and The Mentones. Released: 2009. Genre: Improvisation, Creative, Composition.
“Excerpt from Locustland” from Locustland by Steuart Liebig and The Mentones. Genre: Improvisation, Creative, Composition.
Scott Fraser: electric guitar, reverb springs
Bruce Friedman: trumpet
Improvisations, Spontaneous Compositions & Interactions For Electric Guitar & Trumpet
1. As Visible Wind
2. Haste & Intent
5. Field With Sticks
6. The Cartographer’s Dilemma
8. L’ Ombre Dans L’ Eau
9. Furtive Gestures In The Silent Dark
Upon meeting at a recording session we quickly discovered we shared very similar backgrounds and experiences, and had listened to, and were deeply influenced by many of the same composers and musicians. Making music together was inevitable, with the primary question being how to combine the divergent timbres, idiomatic approaches, and attendant traditions that accompany electric guitar and trumpet. This collection is our answer to that query. All pieces were culled from live improvisations which took place over the course of many jam sessions throughout the ensuing year. We’ve done some minor edits to make things more concise & economical, but basically what you hear is what we played. There are no overdubs. – Scott & Bruce
Recorded, mixed & mastered at Architecture, Los Angeles
© 2005 Architecture, BMI
Produced by Scott Fraser & Bruce Friedman
Cover: untitled (3/8/99) watercolor © 1999 Cody A. Bustamante
Inside: detail, untitled (merman, 1994) water media © 1994 Cody A. Bustamante
Design and Layout by Jeremy Drake, evvt.com
Anna HOMLER/Steuart LIEBIG DUO
Anna HOMLER: voice, toys, found objects
Steuart LIEBIG: Eb contrabassguitars, preparations, electronics, live looping
1. winter street – – 6:52
2. limbic – – 2:20
3. blasted landscape – – 3:26
4. sputtery – – 3:53
5. sidpaho – – 2:11
6. fantasma – – 3:54
7. time of great cold – – 4:59
8. case in point – – 5:30
9. secret heat – – 10:54
10. house of mars – – 1:54
11. mothlike – – 3:15
12. sehnsucht – – 9:25
13. radix vitae – – 5:35
recorded at newzone studios, 15 sept 2001, by wayne peet; mixed at newzone studios,
by wayne peet and steuart liebig, mar vista, california, 2002; mastered by wayne peet 2005
thanks to leslie rosdol, anya liebig and aron liebig; joseph homler, andrew ramer and li bette porter; wayne peet and jeff kaiser.
steuart liebig plays fodera basses, uses a raven labs pmb-1 and uses fodera roundwound strings.
all music (c) 2005 pharmacia poetica/bug music/bmi + sisong music/ascap
photos/montages and layout by steuart liebig; ooga booga by anna homler
all tracks are live, undubbed improvisations.
Steuart Liebig/The Mentones
Tony Atherton: alto saxophone
Joseph Berardi: drumset, percussion
Bill Barrett: chromatic harmonica
Steuart Liebig: contrabassguitar
broom – – 3:27
graveyard – – 4:41
mojave boxcar – – 4:46
drifter – – 7:47
honky tonk burn – – 6:48
westpoint, mississipi – – 8:19
small fry – – 0:45
burnt umber – – 2:50
nighthawk – – 5:43
howl & tumble – – 4:01
gasoline jelly – – 6:33
lightning bug – – 3:47
nowhere calling – – 5:57
©2004, steuart liebig/sisong music (ascap)
recorded at newzone studios, by wayne peet;
mixed at newzone studios, by wayne peet and steuart liebig
mar vista, california, 2000
photos/montages by steuart liebig
layout by steuart liebig and jeff kaiser
gear thanks to fodera basses, thomastik-infeld strings and raven labs
“First let’s talk about Steuart Liebig, the multi-faceted miscreant who squeezed the hybrid beast known as the Mentones out of his juicy mind. Steuart is well known in L.A. as one of the most significant improvising electric bass torturers and electronic manipulators in recent memory and, I’m grateful to say, a major contributor to most of the music I’ve done in the last decade and a half. The metaphor of a diamond with its many facets comes to mind, but that doesn’t quite get it. Imagine the diamond periodically reverting to its primal molten state and shooting out semi-controlled bursts of radioactive plasma melting everything in its reach. I could say that for Steuart the Mentones is an anomaly, but in a way every project he constructs is an anomaly. I will say this—there is nothing like the Mentones on this earth that I’ve ever heard of and even though you may recognize some of its disparate original elements, you will be whacked by how cohesively they come together in Liebig’s compositions. An adult dose of Little Walter crashing his Coupe de Ville into Ornette Coleman’s harmolodien. Howling Wolf gnawing on John Coltrane’s left ear like Mike Tyson. As for the other men in the Mentones: Bill Barrett takes the chromatic harp well beyond its limits like a rubber band stretched into a Mobius strip. Tony Atherton is soulful, relentless and driving. Joe Berardi grooves these odd time signatures like his mother nursed him on non-Euclidean geometry. It’s all that and it’s definitely enough.”
– G.E. Stinson
[Please note: This disc is out-of-print, this page is for archival purposes.]
Jeff Kaiser [trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics]
Jim Connolly [contrabass, throat singing]
Daphne Jones [voice]
Roy Jones [voice]
pfMENTUM CD 006
Richard Valitutto, piano
Dave Wilson, tenor saxophone
1. set (zajdi) (3:42)
2. enviros (2:12)
3. -i—e- (8:59)
4. suspiros (3:08)
5. what is the name of that (4:56)
6. poeme (3:13)
7. me then you then me then you then me (2:47)
8. p-tch-s (7:01)
9. you then me then you then me then you (3:46)
10. rise (2:42)
All compositions by Richard Valitutto and Dave Wilson
Recorded and mixed by Vanessa Parr at the Recording Studio at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Los Angeles, June 10-11 and 27-28, 2016
Mastered by Justin DeHart, Anaheim, California, January 16-17, 2017
Additional engineering by Lorenzo Bühne, Wellington, New Zealand, January 17, 2017
©2018, Richard Valitutto Music (ASCAP) and Hamlin Lake Publishing (ASCAP)
Graphic Design by Ted Killian
The Aaron Copland Fund forMusic (logo)
Special thanks to the Aaron Copland Fund for Music Recording Program, the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, and the Longy School of Music of Bard College for their generous financial support of this album project. Additional thanks to Jeff Kaiser, Maxwell Gualtieri, and the entire team at pfMENTUM for their edifying interest in and unflagging patience with this project’s development over the last few years as just one part of their admirable long-term efforts to strengthen and bring together the experimental/creative music community at large through the recording arts.
SLANT bears the marks of our interest in exploring possibilities as performers composing together instantaneously and spontaneously. This project came together over a period of months, as we cultivated improvisational compositions, revisited them as compositional improvisations, and—circling back repeatedly—layered on top of each the lingering remnants of previous iterations. Tethered as they are to our personal musical pasts, intersections, and divergences, the sounds on these recordings push and pull one another into our own comfortable and uncomfortable areas as listeners and players, leading us into new ways of feeling the air move around us, and moving through that air and into it ourselves.
The recordings of this project came to life just before—and in the midst of—a liminal period when my own path was diverted. It shifted unexpectedly but by my own choice, in a direction that I knew, at the time, would open and close other paths and set new directions. For Richard and (especially) for me, the awareness of my impending departure from Los Angeles permeated the ways the sounds were conceived at all stages of composition, including their capture in recorded form.
The interplay, the interaction, the ways that we move with and against one another —all of these gestures in SLANT take oblique pathways that don’t so much lead to a hoped-for culmination but, instead, end up in a place not previously conceived.
Wellington, New Zealand
The pathways spiraling out of set (zajdi) originate in Macedonia, where Dave has been immersed in sound worlds that involve at least a thread of music either emerging from—or gesturing towards—rural life. “Zajdi, zajdi jasno sonce” (Set, set bright sun) is a popular traditional song that slowly unfolds, allowing the singer to display their melismatic facility and virtuosity. The song’s lyrics address the bright sun (telling it to set) and the bright moon (telling it to drown itself). When the text eventually turns to address the forest (which is the “sister” of the singer) it tells it to darken itself along with the singer: the forest for its leaves, the singer for their youth. The last words of the text lament: “your leaves, O forest sister, will return to you again; my youth, O forest sister, will not return to me.” Typically a mournful song drenched in beauty, our reading of the song also shows the aggression and darkness of youth’s furious passing. Forming the melodic and dramatic foundation of this work, the agitated, plangent saxophone lines are supported by a piano part that was directly inspired by another southeastern European influence: the Romanian spectral composer Horațiu Rădulescu, particularly his late piano sonatas.
In enviros we explore the “inner world” of both instruments’ sounds: piano harmonics and saxophone subtones. The compositional concept in this case is not so much linear or narrative as “environmental.” This yields a different improvised performance each time it’s performed, while the piece retains the same distinct feeling and texture. (In the same way that a certain patch of landscape or a particular city street is always identifiably itself and yet is shaped and reshaped anew by those that move through it, the light that strikes it, and the weather patterns that color it from day to day.) Air, space, and resonance come in and out of contact with one another, the shimmering microtonal harmonies trembling as they layer, creating the environmental texture.
-i—e- is a compositional structure based on one of the synthetic scales created by the boundary-pushing American composer, alto saxophonist, bass clarinetist, and flautist Eric Dolphy. In -i—e-, saxophonist and pianist take turns improvising cadenza-like monologues within the scale’s prismatic world of fleeting tonal allusions. After the extended solos, the players converge in ecstatic agreement on a composed melodic head based on the scale, the apotheosis of the improvisation. The instruments guide one another along self-generated paths to assume new trajectories that, for a moment, briefly converge.
suspiros sounds the sighing exasperation, release, and mourning of impending departure, loss, and gain in an impromptu ballad. Super- imposing a microtonal saxophone melody over a tonal/modal piano accompaniment, this piece doesn’t settle or provide catharsis, but remains and persists— pushing and pulling as it breathes in and out.
what is the name of that leans heavily on Ornette Coleman and Prime Time. It takes Coleman’s “What is the name of that song?” and places his horn line on hammers and strings, recasts the electric bass on the horn and interweaves the guitars and drums parts throughout. Multiple melodies, temporalities, and tone colors point this performance in many directions, folding it back again on itself with new creases, and finishing in manic abandon.
poeme is a musing on the mystical, color-drenched music of the late-Romantic early-20th century Russian composer Aleksandr Skryabin, specifically, Opus 69, No. 1, one of his many “Poèmes” for solo piano. This performance takes direct inspiration from the many accounts of the pianist-composer’s seemingly improvised performances of his own works, further illuminated by his idiosyncratic rhythmic notation and a harmonic language almost entirely derived from his synthetic chords.
When we conceptualized me then you then me then you then me, we took turns leading, following, and finding the space in between the constructed dichotomy of leading and following.
p-tch-s is a systematic progression through the anatomy of the instruments themselves, moving from one tactile space to another, embracing sonic possibilities and realizing points of intersection just as they are slipping away.
We’re taking turns again in you then me then you then me then you, but this time you are following me, and then I follow you.
The patterns that emerge from rise point to something new, something incomplete and unformed, something not yet known or not to be known, something that remains, more uncertainties, fewer known ways ahead, acknowledging that perhaps closure is best reached via more questions and fewer explanations.
Los Angeles, CA – New York, NY
Wellington, New Zealand
[This product is a DVD]
1. Set One Introduction 2:31
Jonathan Stehney, bassoon
Andrew Rowan, trumpet
2. Show of Force 3:44
Carmina Escobar and
Andrea Young, voices
3. 5 (Large Ensemble Version) 11:22
Gavin Templeton, alto saxophone
Vinny Golia, baritone saxophone
Stefan Kac, tuba
4. Up In The Sky, Like The Sun At High Noon
(The Eiga Clan Frames The Roscoe Trip) 11:27
Erik KM Clark, violin
Dan Clucas and Daniel Rosenboom, trumpets
Jon Armstrong, tenor saxophone
5. Lost & Found (For Henry) 10:49
Aniela Perry, cello
Joseph Thel, english horn
Alex Noice, electric guitar
Ingrid Lee, piano
6. Carbine One, Change A Letter 6:13
Ben McIntosh, trombone
Michael Mull, alto saxophone
7. Carbine Two 6:09
Drew Jordan, trumpet
Vinny Golia and Christine Tavolacci, piccolos
1. Set Two Introduction 3:50
Jon Armstrong, tenor saxophone
2. Would You Like Help
On Your Journey To Mottsfield? 6:57
Kathy Pisaro, oboe
Vinny Golia, tubax (contrabass saxophone)
3. Soccer Gear Dropped On Religious Leaders 6:57
Alex Noice, guitar
Brian Walsh, bass clarinet
Daniel Rosenboom, piccolo trumpet
4. Barnum Brown Finds Something 4:10
Ingrid Lee, piano
Vinny Golia, sopranino saxophone
5. Just Another Morning 1:57
6. Encore 8:36
Vinny Golia directed improvisation:
Brian Walsh, bass clarinet
Lauren Baba and Andrew Tholl, violin
Christine Tavolacci, bass flute
Jonathan Stehney, bassoon
Alex Noice, guitar
Gavin Templeton, alto saxophone
Kathy Carbone, Lauren Pratt, Wayne Peet, Allen Kaufman,
David Rosenboom, Marc Lowenstein, California Institute
of the Arts, and all the members of the Vinny Golia New
A joint release of
Graphic Design: Ted Killian
All compositions and arrangements by Vinny Golia
℗ and © 2018 Ninewinds, BMI
Recorded live at REDCAT in Los Angeles, April 9, 2014
All works Vinny Golia
Conductors Mark Lowenstein and Vinny Golia
Violins: Andrew Tholl, Henry Webster, Melinda Rice, Stephanie Moorehouse, Lauren Baba, Eric KM Clark, Madeline Falcone
Violas: Cassia Streb, Natalie Brejcha, Morgan Lee Gerstmar
Cellos: Aniela Perry, Derek Stein, April Guthrie, Thea Mesirow
Bass: David Tranchina, Ivan Johnson
Oboe: Kathy Pisaro
Oboe/English Horn: Joseph Thel
Bassoons: Jonathan Stehney, Archie Carey
C, Alto and Bass Flutes, Piccolo: Christine Tavolacci, Sammi Lee
Saxophones, Flutes, Clarinets: Vinny Golia, Gavin Templeton, Jon Armstrong
Clarinet and Alto Sax: Michael Mull
Bass Clarinet: Brian Walsh
Trumpets: Dan Clucas, Daniel Rosenboom, Drew Jordan, Andrew Rowan
French Horn: Erin Poulin, Adam Wolf
Trombones: Evan Sprecht, Ben McIntosh, Matt Barbier
Bass Trombone: John Tyler Jordan
Tuba: Stefan Kac
Piano Ingrid Lee
Guitar Alex Noice
Mallets: Jodie Landau
Auxiliary Percussion: Tony Gennaro, Vinny Golia
Drum Kit: Andrew Lessman
Voice Andrea Young, Carmina Escobar
Recording Concert recording by Wayne Peet
Mixed and mastered at Newzone Studio, Los Angeles by Wayne Peet with Aaron Druckman (assistant engineer)
Video by Sunlight Digital
Video recording by Allen Kaufman and Jimmy Alioto
Edited and authored by Allen Kaufman
About The Work
When first notified of this REDCAT concert, I planned to meld my electric sextet with my large ensemble; two groups I hold very dear to my heart. Along the way many things happened. I added vocalists, I wanted to have an extended string section and I thought about how I would incorporate the long standing members of the large ensemble and the many new bright faces creating such vibrant music here in Los Angeles. Also along the way tragic events past through the lives of loved ones, the music community suffered the loss of many great musicians and lastly, just a few days ago, Pierre Fauteux passed onto another phase of his continuum. Pierre’s love of music as well as his love of life is embedded in my mind. This concert is a dedication to and a celebration of his time spent on this planet with his lovely wife, Helen, and their two outstanding children, Monique and Jacqueline. It is also dedicated to all those who have lost loved ones.
Pondering on these events happening in my life, the question is (and always has been) how to make music that is meaningful and communicative amidst sorrow and chaos. I still do not know the answer, and my journey takes me deeper into the sounds we create. These compositions were written and re-orchestrated between 2004 and 2014 and are an overview of areas I have been exploring, namely, rhythm, shape, form, and color, with my large and medium ensembles over this time period.
Carbine One, Change A Letter and Carbine Two are portraits of one of my closest friends. Up In The Sky Like The Sun At High Noon is another entry into a series based on driving times in Los Angeles, which as every Los Angeles dweller knows, can be fast and brutal or just plain brutal. This composition also comments on the Eiga clan in feudal Japan, which is a source of inspiration for many other compositions I have written for other various sized ensembles. Show of Force is a commentary on the posturing of nations and how political leaders choose to respond. Lost and Found is for the enigmatic Henry Grimes, whom many thought dead, but who reappeared after many years living in Los Angeles. I have had the great pleasure to perform with Henry numerous times since his reemergence. 5 is the oldest of the compositions, and was originally written for a quartet, then expanded for a quintet, condensed for a saxophone quartet, arranged for a sextet, and finally, orchestrated for this new orchestra. Would you like help in your journey to Motts field? should conjure up images if you enjoy a certain type of film genre.
Lastly, we come to three pieces for Pierre. These compositions, started as a trilogy for percussion and orchestra in 2004, are now just completed. The titles are humorous in honor of Pierre’s love of life, fun, wine, and music. Hopefully you will enjoy them as much as I did while writing them and we have performing them.
In my work there is a balance between the worlds of composition and improvisation. It takes extremely talented musicians to straddle these worlds which includes following a conductor, watching for hand signs and signals, reading complex music, improvising within specific guidelines and interpreting a composer’s ideas into concrete form. I come into contact everyday at CalArts with musicians comfortable working in this way, so after much thought instead of melding my electric sextet with my large ensemble, I decided to take a more orchestral approach and created a new incarnation of my large ensemble for this concert: The Vinny Golia New Music Orchestra. This orchestra comprises many alumni and students who have passed through my various classes and musical groups through the years, as well as CalArts faculty members. The musicians in this orchestra all share a love of exploration and the highest regard for music. It is truly an honor and a privilege to be performing and sharing the stage with them. Tonight we share with you our love of sound in memory of all who have passed through our lives.
—Vinny Golia, Valencia, California, 5 April 2014
Disk Label Text:
A joint release of
pfMENTUM and Ninewinds
All compositions and arrangements by Vinny Golia
℗ and © 2018 Ninewinds, BMI
Glen Whitehead Trio
The Living Daylights
Britton Ciampa Drums • Scott Walton Bass • Glen Whitehead Trumpet
Improvisational structures inspired by natural phenomena that play with our perceptions of space, time, and place
The Living Daylights Suite (1-3)
1. Living Daylights Suite 1—at Time’s Place 05:02
2. Living Daylights Suite 2—Zenosyne 08:23
3. Living Daylights Suite 3—Apophenia 08:30
4. Heliopause 04:01
5. 42 Degrees 04:31
6. Bow Shock 05:49
7. Shedding Vortices 03:38
8. Involution Engine 06:22
9. Fissure Syndrome 03:54
10. Pearl of Swirl 05:50
11. Punktuation 07:44
Recorded at the Banquet Studios February 6, 2016
and July 21, 2016, Guerneville, CA
Engineered by Darryl Webb
Mixed and Mastered by Wayne Peet at Killzone,
Newzone Studio, Los Angeles, February, 2018
Photo Credit—Glen Whitehead
Graphic Design—Ted Killian
© 2018 Glen Whitehead (ASCAP)
The Living Daylights
The Living Daylights is based on natural phenomena that play with our perceptions of space, time and place and rendered with a loosely structured improvisational system that enables many possibilities within the natural restraints of a conscious system. These pieces explore similarities between immersive activities surrounding intensive environmental exploration and improvisational music composition. The more one invests energy, time and intention to immersive experiences in the world, the more phenomenal events appear – connections come alive with mysterious interactions.
This ensemble is an ecosystem where unique communities of sound are created within each piece. In this “conscious system” individuals are free to roam and explore while supporting the foundations of the emerging sonic environment, each individual being equally responsible for the whole. Empathy through sound, the sounding of self-reflection between the rewards of individuality and shared common goals create unique musical real estate; each piece then embodies unique energies internalized (and externalized) by the ensemble members.
I created the identity of these pieces after the recording process in long term listening, imagining and research sessions. Most ideas were initially encountered through immersive investigations in a variety of natural environments around the world the last several years (many under what I would call an apprenticeship with ecoacoustic composer Dr. Matthew Burtner and the EcoSono Institute) including many sites across Colorado and the great southwest, the Great Sand Dunes, San Luis Valley, headwaters of the Rio Grand, as well as Alaska, Cape Cod, Mexico, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Korea and more.
My long-term goal is to develop a stronger methodology between improvisational music creation, ecoacoustics, acoustic ecology, environmentalism and other related practices.
This work is part of a larger interdisciplinary leap on my part that includes several related projects including collaborations with dance, geography, theatre, and film. In essense, this study is a long-term attempt to build more pathways between creative music practices and partnering fields.
These pieces, and the two incredible musicians whom I have been so honored to work with on this project reflect such phenomenological experiences. Scott Walton (acoustic bass) has been a key collaborator in my musical life. He is equal a pianist as a bassist and simply one of the best musicians – that I have had the privilege to work with and learn from in my life. Britt represents a younger generation of insanely informed musicians. His skill as a drummer and knowledge as musician is well beyond his years. He possesses an uncanny ability to connect obscure subjects and histories within a deep understanding of the creative music world. The magic of his playing is his ability to wield musical and sonic information into its the fullest possible context. He is also an “ex-student” of mine from UCCS – one of our very best.
I view the wide world of sonic and musical languages in this work as idiomatic – a respectful departure of what is usually commonly understood in contexts of free improvisation as “non-idiomatic” (from Derek Bailey’s definition). To me, this is a resolvable contradiction. I believe it is time to reconcile all sound language as “idiomatic.” We are saturated within the idioms of our instrumental backgrounds – acquired ear, technical and historic knowledge along with both innate and environmental influences. This is the natural order of things, musically speaking. All sound is at play, why make distinctions? How we wield our musical instruments is a fundamental part of our humanistic “taskscapes,” a term used by Tim Ingold, originally “to bring the perspectives of archaeology and anthropology into unison” (The Temporality of the Landscape, 1993), “the constitutive tasks of the dwelling” in this case, “musicking,” applies perfectly to instrumental and vocal play. Such musicking, as has been hypothesized was a fundamental part of the task-scape that played so significantly in the adaptation and improvisation process that went into our early development as a species, so significant in fact it may have been a fundamental catalyst in the development of imagination and possibility.
Notes on the pieces
The first three tracks make up a suite. They were the first pieces recorded on this project, conceived and recorded as one unit, and in one take. At Time’s Place is a play on words in acknowledgment of the constant “present” in which we live. In this open-ended tradition of improvised music, the phenomenological act of real-time musical creation gives us a unique way to access the past and the future, if only in our minds eye of self-reflection and imagination.
Zenosyne, from the unique “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” by John Greene pinpoints a fundamental experience that had no clear term (in English, anyway) – the sense that time keeps going faster as you get older. In a different frame, such an example is at the very core of improvisational experience, and I like to imagine would be part of a future established aspect of music theory for improvisation. I am reminded of many times when an improvisation seemed to take ten minutes, and forty-five minutes had passed. While, to certain members of the audience, no doubt, it felt like two hours!
Apophenia, the perception of patterns, meanings, or connections where none exists, is also a relatively new word although the well explored phenomenon itself is not. Its first use is credited to the psychiatrist Klaus Conrad back in 1958 in his catchy-titled Die beginnende Schizophrenie: Versuch einer Gestaltanalyse des Wahns, which translates to the equally scintillating The origins of schizophrenia: A Gestalt analysis of paranoia. It is fascinating that this word should appear to be so recent when the actual phenomenon is so old and important enough to have been a lynch-pin for philosophical study through the ages. In Natural History of Religion (1757), philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) wrote the following:
There is a universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object those qualities with which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious. We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and by a natural propensity, if not corrected by experience and reflection, ascribe malice and good will to everything that hurts or pleases us.
There is one major qualification and difference of how this idea is utilized in this work. This is a play on the imagination – the “random” discoveries that appear to have no connections, actually uncover true, previously unseen connections and relationships. I cannot think of a better context for the illusively connective experience of improvised music.
The Heliopause (with its syntactic musical resonance) is the boundary where the sun’s solar wind meets the faint radiation of interstellar space and is no longer strong enough to push back the stellar winds of the surrounding stars. This is the boundary where the interstellar medium and solar wind pressures meet and balance, physics working on a grand scale, the great meeting point of astral forces locked in a dance. Imagine, even with this distance impossible for us to quantify in scale in our imagination, that this line is definitive and slender where the distant finger of our incubator solar cocoon touches the rest of the universe– what a musical thought.
42 degrees references the connection of people and light reflected in the observations of – well, rainbows. When we see a rainbow and its band of colors we are looking at light refracted and reflected from different raindrops at an angle of between 40 and 42 degrees at all points of view – whether one person is high on a hilltop and another hundreds of feet below. Light orients to our visual lenses, our lenses orient the angle of light.
Bow Shock, also called a detached shock or normal shock, is a curved, stationary shock wave that is found in a supersonic flow past a finite body. Similarly, Shedding vortices (vortex shedding) is an oscillating flow that takes place when a fluid such as air or water flows past a bluff (as opposed to streamlined) body at certain velocities, depending on the size and shape of the body. Both of these phenomena, for me, connect with the wind “shock” that occurs inside and across a fast material with wind and brass sound production, and illuminate the use of creating sound vortexes in so many different ways in improvised music.
Involution Engine is a function, transformation, or operator that is equal to its inverse, only applies to itself and is a function of its own inverse. for instance, in medicine, this applies to the shrinking of an organ (such as the uterus after pregnancy) or philosophy and psychology a “turning in” on one’s self. Musical phenomena in time also have similar phenomena but have been limited in concept, I believe, because of the hard-cast association with printed, scored notation – retrograde inversion, for example. The idea of a sonic involution works exquisitely in an aural, perceived identity, much like a physically created moveable object and is far more complex and four dimensional that can be adequately represented on a typical score (mostly).
I came up with Fissure Syndrome through pure free association upon listening to the results of this piece several times. As it turns out, it is a kind of an Apophenia in of itself, as this term lives in the medical world as, superior orbital fissure syndrome (also known as Rochen-Duvigneaud syndrome) is a collection of symptoms caused by compression of structures just anterior to the orbital apex. The eye is to the ear, except when closed.
For Pearl of Swirl, am fascinated by the perception of sound as physical moving substance or phenomena. To me, this conceptual mega-world is in its infancy and a signification of the music theory and creative methodologies of the future of music. Pearl of Swirl, here, references Pearl Swirl, a rheoscopic fluid created specifically to see the movement or currents in liquids. Its purpose is scientific in nature, yet, it carries commercial tendrils with trademark statuses and “secret ingredient” branding. It is at once a vital substance category for the science of fluid dynamics and other related fields in order to visualize currents, aerodynamics, turbulence, convection and other phenomena (a not so subtle nod to my father, an award winning physical oceanographer, fluid dynamicist and a very creative one, at that). On the other side of the coin, pearl swirl is also a novel commercial ingredient added to shampoos and other liquids for the purpose of a non-functional aesthetical “swirl” effect. This duality embodies the inescapable, almost satirical relationship between real science and over-saturated reality of commerce in our culture today.
Punktuation – ‘Nuff said and done
PLEASE NOTE: THIS PAGE IS FOR PURCHASING THE DOUBLE LP (VINYL) VERSION.
Please click here for the CD.
Jason Robinson’s Janus Ensemble:
Jason Robinson—tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute
JD Parran—alto and contra alto clarinets, bass flute
Oscar Noriega—Bb and bass clarinets, alto saxophone
Marty Ehrlich—bass clarinet, alto saxophone, flute
Bill Lowe—bass trombone, tuba
Ches Smith—drums, glockenspiel
Recorded at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY, January 5-6, 2016
Engineered and mixed by Mike Marciano
Produced by Jason Robinson
Recording session produced by Steph Robinson
Recording session assistant: Jamie Sandel
Mastered by Rich Breen, Dogmatic Studios, Burbank, CA
All images by David Gloman. Cover, West Worthington Falls, 2016, 17×21 inches, acrylic on paper (detail). Side A label, Bear Den Falls, 2016, 17×22 inches, acrylic on paper (detail). Side B label, Westfield River, 2016, 17×21 inches, acrylic on paper (detail). Side C label, Gold in Brook Falls, 2016, 11×14 inches, acrylic on paper (detail). Side D label, Gunn Brook Falls, 2015, 18×23 inches, acrylic on paper (detail).
Photography by Scott Friedlander, (c) 2016, used with permission
Graphic design by Ted Killian
Facing East (10:41)
Futures Unimagined (8:12)
Facing West (6:31)
Circuitry Unbound (8:44)
All compositions by Jason Robinson (ASCAP)
All rights reserved ℗ and © 2018 Jason Robinson
Arriving in Montreal in the middle of the Janus Ensemble tour, I watched as my fellow trombonist Bill Lowe wrangled his enormous tuba and bass trombone cases out of the van, through sub-zero winds and icy sidewalks, and into the tiny club where we’d soon perform. This would be a challenge for someone half Bill’s age, but he was unfazed, focused only on warming up all that metal in time for the soundcheck.
We’d been driving all day and I’d spent much of it listening to Bill’s inspiring stories. For a half century, he’s contributed to expanding the ways that African American music is understood, starting out working with celebrated musical innovators in 1960s London and 1970s New York City and continuing through an extensive career that encompasses music making, community engagement, festival organizing, and academic work. As Taylor Ho Bynum points out, despite all this, Bill has “existed somewhat under the radar, partly because he’s been equally committed to teaching and scholarship throughout his career, and partly because the top-down, star-focused version of jazz history rarely leaves room for the artists in the trenches who are the lifeblood of the music.”1
That night, this “lifeblood” was a large band crammed onto the stage without a spare inch, working through a wide-ranging set of Jason Robinson’s music. “Futures Unimagined,” a piece we played and also part of this album, is typical of Jason’s compositional range and sensibility. It begins with an introduction where the only indication in the score is “collective improvisation – start sparse,” giving the band time for a spacious, internal dialogue that differs wildly each time, but eventually coalesces into more intricate notations and then a blues-inflected song form. There, one lush, recurring melodic phrase is scored for trombone on top of clarinets, an allusion to a specific color and orchestration developed by Duke Ellington in his 1930 composition “Mood Indigo.” As if to heighten the connection, Bill’s brilliant trombone solo on this piece combines throat growling and a harmon mute in his own version of a technique pioneered by Ellington’s trombonist “Tricky” Sam Nanton. Eventually the piece ends with a flourish of improvisational dialogue among two drumset players, George Schuller and Ches Smith, cutting to a sparse snare drum gesture played eight times in perfect unison by both drummers, an elusive and only temporary closure before we continue to the next chapter of the suite.
Almost a century ago, Duke Ellington’s early ensemble music helped establish an important new practice of composing music not only for specific instruments, but also for individual improvisers, drawing on each musician’s personal sound for inspiration and raw material. It’s an approach that has since expanded in infinite directions, especially in African American-based improvised music, but always with a powerful dialectic at its core: It depends on and highlights individuality, and it’s also a deeply collective mode of creativity.
That spirit infuses Resonant Geographies, an extended suite Jason has composed for these eleven improvisers, most of whom have performed in his Janus Ensemble since 2008. Compositionally, the suite is a series of sonic reflections on specific locations that have been important to Jason, each movement a kind of tone poem moving through a range of textures and forms related to that memory. But the suite is just as much animated by musical geographies, both those of the improvisers in this band who bring different relationships to jazz traditions, and those of the composers past and present whose influences echo throughout the score, filtered through Jason’s own compositional sensibility.
Multi-reedist J.D. Parran is another individual who has inspired both Jason and me for many years and brings his unique history to this album. Reflecting on his experience growing up in inner city St. Louis during the 1960s, J.D. describes how he was fortunate to have excellent school music teachers that were part of the “talented tenth group of African American educators.” He comments that these teachers, many of whom had recently migrated from the south, were “very, very special in what they had to go through—in mostly traditionally black colleges and universities—to get their education, and the rigorous kind of training that they received.”2
Rigor: “The quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate.” I associate this quality with Parran himself, one of those rare people I’d describe as a master musician. He’s achieved astonishing technique on multiple reed instruments, including less common ones such as the bass saxophone and alto clarinet, and he’s worked as both an interpreter and an improviser across wide-ranging forms of contemporary music, from his early years with mentors in the Black Artist Group (BAG), an important St. Louis collective, through graduate-level formal training and decades of trans-disciplinary, creative collaborations based in New York City. As an improviser, he’s woven all of these diverse experiences into a “very, very special” sound all his own.
I first heard J.D. in the late 1990s, at a solo concert on which he played several reed instruments. I remember being especially stunned by his interpretation of “St. Louis Blues” on bass clarinet. Thinking back now on his sound, I’m reminded of these words:
“In the context of improvised musics that exhibit strong influences from African- American ways of music-making, musical sound—or rather, ‘one’s own sound’—becomes a carrier for history and cultural identity. As Yusef Lateef maintains, ‘The sound of the improvisation seems to tell us what kind of person is improvising. We feel that we can hear character or personality in the way the musician improvises.’”3 —George E. Lewis4
For this album, one place where Jason features J.D. is on “Dreaming,” the middle movement of the suite. Midway into the piece, J.D. interprets a melody that Jason composed to highlight the unique timbre of the alto clarinet, shifting between gradient inflection and incredible precision of pitch with a rich, fluid tone. He then improvises a solo that slowly blooms across multiple registers and propels the band through a kaleidescopic transformation, interacting especially with the dense, rhythmic composite coming from the two drummers. Here as in many other moments on this album, George and Ches are expert alchemists, constantly discovering new ways to mix their two distinct drumset sounds in a dialogue that grounds the band but is always shifting.
In the final section of “Dreaming,” the ensemble navigates a scored section of tempo shifts and dramatic gestures for low brass and reeds. These two effects together make for another historical citation, as specific as the Ellington one: here the reference is to the second movement of Charles Mingus’ album The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, a landmark recording in the history of long-form suites composed for improvisers.
Hearing this Mingus trace isn’t necessary for enjoying the track’s explosive ending, but the point is that this model of composition always includes such imaginary dialogues, honoring one’s sources in ways that range from explicit to oblique. And the references aren’t always to the distant past—for example, the hocketed texture scored for two tubas and trombone over a churning rhythm section in “Facing West” points towards the work of contemporary composer Henry Threadgill, whose imaginative bands Jason has cited as a formative influence on the instrumentation of the Janus Ensemble. Here again, Jason’s choice of soloist adds to this connection, as this music launches into an otherworldly solo by virtuoso tubist Marcus Rojas, one of several musicians in this band who has played in Threadgill’s ensembles.
This interweaving of personal and collective histories is a reminder of something important about developing one’s “own sound”: you don’t do it alone. This kind of music requires extensive solitary practice and study, but our sounds as improvisers also evolve through infinite reactions and interactions with others, including the musicians we work with and others we know only through records, like the one you are holding now.
This is Jason’s third recording with the Janus Ensemble, which he has been leading in flexible configurations since 2008. All the musicians on this album have been part of the ensemble since then, except for two new additions on this record, the phenomenal reed player Oscar Noriega and myself on trombone. Though I’m new to the Janus ensemble, Jason and I have been close collaborators and friends for about 20 years, working in numerous bands and projects together. We first met when he moved to San Diego for the same reason I did: to study music with George Lewis and Anthony Davis in a graduate program at UC San Diego
Lewis and Davis radically expanded the questions we were asking about music and inspired us in endless ways. They modeled a creative practice that is rigorous in craft, wide open in creative possibility, and always with a thoughtful, complex and individual connection to the world. They encouraged us to develop our own communities and our own music, not just adopt theirs, but they also introduced us, figuratively and literally, to many other artists who would become important inspirations and mentors, including J.D. Parran and Marty Ehrlich, both on this record.
When I first met Jason, he had been playing on various scenes in northern California and had been mentored by the late Mel Graves, a bassist who ran a vibrant and highly original jazz program at Sonoma State University. Jason was immersed in music with typical intensity, having already released an album of his music on his own label while still in his early 20s. He was inquisitive, deep into the saxophone, creating music with darting, angular lines and exuberant grooves. His music had a driving quality, an optimistic, forward momentum, but always with a sense of openness to shifts in direction, whether subtle or extreme.
I still hear that same musical DNA in Jason’s sound, but deepened through two decades of work and expanded to a broader palette through collaborations like this one. This suite is carefully crafted to feature all of the improvisers in both solo and collective contexts while also covering a wide-ranging compositional terrain. Some sections delve deep into texture and sound, either through detailed score notations that exploit the band’s unusual instrumentation, or through improvisations set within imaginative backdrops. Other stretches of music revel in the rich rhythmic and harmonic language of jazz traditions, sometimes recalling the buoyant energies of early big band music and other times with a more abstract lens that evokes later “creative orchestra” explorations. What ties it all together and makes the work a long-form composition rather than just a sequence of varied parts is the dialogue among these different soundworlds, not just between movements but within them; none of the tracks end where they begin, and each travels unpredictably through a different blend of historical references, individual expressions and sonic explorations.
The band you hear on this record is diverse in generation as well as musical backgrounds, and along with those mentioned above, the lineup includes other equally renowned composer-improvisers. Multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich, like J.D. Parran, began his long history of contributions to this music working with musicians from BAG and the AACM in St. Louis during the late 1960s, and over the decades since has created a wide-ranging body of creative work as a composer and collaborator. The versatile bassist and composer Drew Gress has long been one of the most in-demand improvisers on the NYC scene, grounding bands led by an incredible range of contemporary innovators, and the same can be said of acclaimed guitarist and composer Liberty Ellman, another musician here connected to Henry Threadgill, in Liberty’s case through working closely with Threadgill over many years alongside his own projects.
This band encompasses a fascinating cross-section of jazz-inspired contemporary music scenes, broad and difficult to categorize, but one thread running through the Janus Ensemble and Jason’s music is the idea that this wide range of creative expression and method is central to jazz traditions, and always has been. Many people in the jazz industry still seem eager to reinforce old fault lines and put every new record in a particular box, with avant-garde flavors on one side and “traditional” ones on the other. But music like this embodies a more expansive stance, a recognition that a wide spectrum of expressive possibilities is always present to begin with, endlessly woven into new forms by individuals responding to changing contexts. Speaking in Arthur Taylor’s classic 1972 book of musician-to-musician interviews, the great drummer Philly Joe Jones harshly critiques “bag carriers” who superficially imitate the screams of the avant-garde, but he also cites artists like John Coltrane to distinguish experimentalists who are committed to a deep, integrative craft. In response to a question about “freedom music,” Jones deftly deconstructs conventional discursive boundaries by commenting that “everybody’s been playing free. Every time you play a solo you’re free to play what you want to play. That’s freedom right there.”5 I hope you can enjoy this new music by Jason Robinson and the Janus Ensemble in that spirit. Thanks for listening. — Michael Dessen
1. Taylor Ho Bynum, “Guest Post: Taylor Ho Bynum on Bill Lowe,” in Destination: Out, Feb. 1, 2012, accessed June 20, 2017 <http://destination-out.com/?p=3384>.
2. Interview with J.D. Parran by Yusef Jones, accessed June 2017: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMYc63l6OMg>.
3. Yusef A. Lateef, “The Pleasures of Voice in Improvised Music,” in Roberta Thelwell, ed., Views on Black American Music: Selected Proceedings from the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Annual Black Musicians’ Conferences, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, No. 3 (1985–1988) pp. 43–46.
4. George E. Lewis, “Too Many Notes: Computers, Complexity and Culture in ‘Voyager,’” Leonardo Music Journal, Vol. 10 (2000), pp. 33-39.
5. Art Taylor. Notes and Tones : Musician-to-Musician Interviews. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993, pp. 47-48.
Resonant Geographies is a meditation on place, memory, relationships, and community. Each movement of the suite is inspired by specific places, a canvas of various experiences and memories for me over a number of years. These are not the sounds of places in a narrow sense, but what is contained here might as well be considered a sounding of those places. A subtle but important distinction. A proportion, a relationship, a scent, a feeling. Like the shifting translucent blues and oranges of a rejuvenating and boundless sunset along the north coast of California, or the warm embraces or knowing glances of friends and loved ones, this project is a process. It continues to unfold. Great heartache, struggle, discovery, and rebirth accompanied/s its long stages. My heart smiles again. I hope that you, the listener, find yourself in the sounds contained here. And I hope we are all guided by compassion and empathy as we sound places, relationships, communities.
This album is dedicated to George Finney Thomason.
I’ve been drawn to the ocean for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are standing on giant rocks extending into the majestic Pacific some four hours north of San Francisco, while staring with amazement at the spray created by crashing waves, enchanted by the patterns of mussels on rocks, the endless volume of water, the mysterious and beckoning horizon. And the smell—salt, seaweed, richly moist, oxygenated air. I feel at home in this wondrous meeting of water, land, and air. I can still see my great grandfather standing on the bluffs, the rocks, the beaches, and hear his voice as he guides and encourages me to explore. What kind of place is the vast, unimaginably large expanse of the ocean? — Jason Robinson
Deepest thanks to my musical collaborators and friends heard on this recording, whose collaborative spirits and finely tuned personal sound approaches make immeasurable contributions to the music. Thanks also to numerous others who helped make this project possible: Mike Marciano, Rich Breen, Jeff Kaiser, Glenn Siegel, Priscilla Page, Matan Rubinstein, Paul Lichter, Eric Lewis, Jim Staley, Jamie Sandel, and my colleagues at Amherst College. And without the love and support of my closest friends and family, none of this would have been possible. Let’s put this on the turntable, Piccolo. It’s about time!
This recording was made possible by the H. Axel Schupf ’57 Fund for Intellectual Life at Amherst College.