Two new exciting albums! Applied Cryptography Tim Perkis – electronics • Scott Walton – piano An exciting duo of veteran improvisors featuring stunning playing on piano and electronics. AND Pianist/composer Quentin Tolimieri, a new artist to pfMENTUM, releases a beautiful debut, simply titled: Piano. As per usual, more to read and free tracks at: pfMENTUM.com While you are on the …
tim perkis – electronics • scott walton – piano
01 oblique compact 4:08
02 naked egg 4:57
03 dominion 1:41
04 merkle’s knapsack 3:10
05 subliminal channel 2:38
06 partial ordering 2:44
07 normal form 5:44
08 possible objects A 1:44
09 possible objects B 2:17
10 blind signature 5:42
11 zero-knowledge proof 1:31
all compositions ©2016 tim perkis (BMI) and scott walton (ASCAP)
recorded (august 2014) and mixed (july 2015) by philip perkins
mastered (july 2016) by wayne peet
artwork: sophie plassard (artsophie.com)
photo: jeff kellem (slantedhall.com)
design and layout: jeff kaiser (jeffkaiser.com)
perkis.com • jazzhalo.be/musicians-files/scott-walton
1. Force Field of Oblivion 6:04
2. one of countless sporadic manifestations of the alternate universe in which Olivier Messiaen is a fervent agnostic 7:15
3. Membrillo 6:14
4. Operatic 13:37
5. The Enumeration (for Glenn Spearman) 6:13
6. Ogonix 8:58
7. Black Notebook #8 13:37
Steve Adams – alto and baritone saxes, bass flute, electronics
Scott Walton – acoustic bass
All compositions by Steve Adams, © 2016 Metalanguage Music (BMI)
Recorded Feb. 25, 2015 at Fantasy Studio B by Jesse Nichols.
mixed July 8 and December 29, 2015 at Fantasy Studios by Jesse Nichols.
mastered May 5, 2016 by Myles Boisen at the Headless Buddha Mastering Lab.
The Steve Adams/Scott Walton Duo has been performing since 2013. Steve is best known as a member of the Rova Sax Quartet, with whom he has played for over twenty five years, toured internationally and released more than twenty five recordings. His compositions have been performed at the Bang on a Can and Meet the Composer Festivals. Scott Walton is a bassist and pianist whose music negotiates the terrain between jazz, free improvisation, and the classical avant-garde. He has performed throughout North America and Europe with groups he co-leads, and in a host of collaborative contexts.
Michael Vlatkovich: trombone, percussion
Anna Homler: vocal, percussion
Jeff Kaiser: trumpet, flugelhorn
Scott Walton: acoustic bass
Rich West: drums, percussion
1. Dragon Beware (2:47)
2. Here & Here & Here (7:28)
3. Red Coda Soft (8:21)
4. Before But After (2:09)
5. Spark (5:20)
6. Big Doors Little Windows (3:49)
7. Oranger Than Happiness (3:10)
8. Round Triangles (3:41)
9. Your Ark Is Waiting (2:39)
10. Three In Front Four in Back Toes (2:41)
11. Salute (1:41)
12. Choir hose 293 (3:02)
13. Pfazzu (2:48)
14. Thunderous Silence (3:33)
15. Potozo (2:44)
Recorded 1-20-14 edited, mixed & mastered 2-4-14
Newzone Studio Los Angeles Wayne Peet engineer
Photos Julia Fitzgerald * Layout Jeff Kaiser
Gilbert Isbin: lute
Scott Walton: bass
1. Solace 2:32
2. Flutter 3:19
3. Panting 2:24
4. Soedansdochter 3:19
5. Unhinged 2:06
6. Embra 2:47
7. Oblique 3:19
8. Pensive 1:53
9. Along Green Ditches 3:21
10. Blooming 2:11
11. Weaving 3:41
12. Spatter 2:49
13. Knomish 2:42
14. Terpsichore 2:35
15. Recall 2:13
Tracks 3, 6, 9, 11, 13 and 15 composed by Gilbert Isbin
Tracks 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12 and 14 composed by Gilbert Isbin and Scott Walton
Soedansdochter is a medieval Flemish folksong, arranged by Isbin and Walton
Recorded at Banquet Sound Studios, Sebastopol, CA, October 26 and 27, 2011
Recorded and Mixed by Darryl Webb
Mastered by Wayne Peet
Cover Photograph by Marie-Anne Ver Eecke
Special thanks to Marie-Anne Ver Eecke, Sophie Plassard, Jos Demol,
Larry Ochs,Bill Horvitz, Darryl Webb and Jeff Kaiser.
Gilbert Isbin plays an eight-course lute after Wendelio Venere 1592,
built by Dirk De Hertogh, Wolvertem, Belgium
© Gilbert Isbin and Scott Walton 2012. All rights reserved.
Over the past three decades, guitarist/composer Gilbert Isbin has released an impressive string of recordings for various labels. A few years ago, wanting a new challenge, he began studying the lute–not the most common jazz instrument, although its Arabian nephew, the oud, gains more and more recognition. I have always adored the sound of the lute, and it struck me that there is little modern music written for–and performed on–this marvelous instrument. Gilbert’s work is a significant contribution to the development of contemporary lute music. His compositions are both reflective and lyrical, infused with compelling melodies.
Contrabassist and pianist Scott Walton lent his stunning tone and superb technique to the well-received album Venice Suite (2003), recorded in Los Angeles with Gilbert, and violinist Jeff Gauthier. Since meeting at those sessions, Scott and Gilbert have teamed up for numerous concerts in Europe and the United States. Their innovative collaboration finds its inspiration in progressive jazz, classical avant-garde, Renaissance chamber music and even blues. The interplay between both musicians–which proves mutual respect–is remarkable, resulting in intelligent improvisations that capture the listener’s attention. The fifteen tracks on this album are in exquisite balance, revealing an unequivocal beauty. –Jos Demol, Jazz’halo, 14 July 2012
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
2 Many Axes
Brad Dutz: percussion
Susan Rawcliffe: flutes
1. March of the Whales 4:13
2. Circuspace 5:46
3. Pillbug’s Nightmare 1:24
4. Drama Dairy 4:05
5. Entropy 9:38
6. Roll Over Johann 2:00
7. Mastodon Stew 2:33
8. Unheard Melodies 5:07
9. Buried There 5:16
10. Dali Comma 4:43
11. Puddle 1:20
12. Popping Beetles 4:53
13. Anti Carlos 3:50
Total Time: 55:27
Open yourself to the
music of Many Axes:
tones, and textures
you’ve heard before.
C & P 2003, MANY AXES
All Rights Reserved
The primary focus of Many Axes is exploring the potential of unusual instruments. Our sonic structures emerge from spontaneous, improvised musical communication among the members of the group, almost like a conversation. But unlike a verbal conversation, all the participants can “speak” simultaneously, weaving a surprisingly coherent musical web. The diversity of our instrumentation allows us to explore a wide range of soundscapes and moods with only three performers.
Most of the wind instruments we play were designed and fashioned from clay by Susan Rawcliffe, who has made a lifelong study of ceramics and musical traditions from around the world. This love of world music is shared by Scott Wilkinson, who also plays an extensive variety of winds, and Brad Dutz, who has collected myriad percussion instruments from many different cultures. We combine these influences to create a unique blend of sounds that evokes . . . well, only you can say what it evokes in you. Whatever that happens to be, we hope you enjoy it.
Mixing: Scott Wilkinson, Brad Dutz
Mastering: Jeff Rona
CD Package Design: Kira Vollman
Photography: Gene Ogami, Susan Rawcliffe, Scott Wilkinson
Produced by Many Axes
Lot’s of news! ———————————————————— In this issue: * New Director of Development: Andrew Pask! * New recordings by: + The Glen Whitehead Trio + Andrew Raffo Dewar / John Hughes / Chad Popple + Guerino Mazzola and Heinz Geisser * AND…introducing our first ever intern: Nick Welch! ———————————————————— We are thrilled to announce that Andrew Pask is coming on board …
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
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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.