Eric Barber: Maybeck Constructions (PFMCD015)


Eric Barber: Tenor and Soprano Saxophones

1. Taksim 8:24
2. Dark Mirror 7:33
3. Blossoming 6:25
4. Inner Conversation 6:42
5. Rubric 6:11
6. Excavations 12:16

Total Playing Time 47:31

All compositions by Eric Barber, ©2004 Eric Barber Music, ASCAP

Recorded direct to DAT, 25 January 2003, Maybeck Recital Hall, Berkeley, CA

Recorded by Eric Barber and Greg Moore. Audio Assistance by Arthur Jarvinen

Photographs by Michael Kelly. Photo of Eric Barber by Joy Barber.

CD mastering, design, and layout by Jeff Kaiser

This recording is supported in part through Subito, the quick advancement grant program of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Composers Forum



SKU: PFMCD015 Category:

1 review for Eric Barber: Maybeck Constructions (PFMCD015)

  1. 0 out of 5

    The West Coast of the United States continues
    to spawn a wealth of innovative musicians,
    and reed player Barber certainly fits in as a member
    of that creative community. On (1), he tackles
    the difficult art of performing as a saxophone
    soloist by building layers of sonic foundation
    blocks to form a cohesive body of work while
    alternating between tenor and soprano. The
    acoustics at the Maybeck Recital Hall have wondrous
    effects on his developmental explorations,
    offering a subtle echo/decay factor that enhances
    the overall ambiance. He begins on tenor by laying
    down a recurrent phase and then expounding on
    the improvisational offshoots of the basic line. Barber utilizes an enticing tonguing technique
    whereby notes are cut and diced as he wanders
    through a maze of complex formations.
    Playing soprano saxophone on “Dark Mirror,”
    Barber spans the acoustic spectrum by diving to
    the low end and shooting up to the top levels of the
    register. His deliberation and concentration on
    “ Blossoming” convert the movement into ultraslow
    carvings of weighty sound shapes. Barber
    overblows on the mouthpiece to produce breathy
    air currents while spewing out elongated notes of
    pensiveness. “Inner Conversation” finds him prancing
    gleefully on soprano to suggest an upbeat and
    refreshing communication with himself. In this
    instance, he maintains the pitch at the instrument’s
    upper range, thus altering the mood with visions of
    tranquility. The closing “Excavations” is an extended,
    shrill-dominated journey into exotic realms built
    around a series of short linear phrases. On each of
    the selections, Barber diversifies his approach,
    thereby commanding a high level of attention. He
    controls the moment through his constructive
    thought process, and in so doing, communicates
    one-on-one with the attentive listener.

    Frank Rubolino, Cadence, September 2004

    Ostensibly a solo saxophone recital, there’s an uncredited duo partner on Eric Barber’s Maybeck Constructions. It’s architect Bernard Maybeck’s jewel-like Arts and Crafts performance space in Berkeley, California. Maybeck Hall is renowned for its intimate yet resonant acoustic, and Barber plays it with the sensitivity and imagination that he brings to his tenor and soprano saxophones. On “Inner Conversation” he send deliberate, non-Western-sounding soprano lines into the room and listens as the room sends them back. This must have been the way ancient, monodic church choirs created European harmony in reverberant medieval cathedrals. Barber’s interest in texture extends to the opening “Taksim,” a study in tenor sax harmonics of almost tactile heft and dimension. On the concluding, 12-minute “Excavations,” he somehow builds a virtual electronic instrument out of cane, brass and a wooden room. Or maybe it’s a choir of deranged oboes. Either way, straight tones and harmonics alternate so deftly in Barber’s circular-breathed lines as to create a rich, brocaded sound, a lot of sound for one saxophonists and an empty room.

    John Chacona, CODA, July/August 2004

    Solo saxophone recitals bring to mind cartoon saxophonist Lisa Simpson being dismissed from band practice for doing her own thing. Sure we all like to think of ourselves as Lisa, Sonny Rollins, Evan Parker, John Butcher, Joe McPhee, or Jack Wright blowing notes into the great unknown, but the solo setting is one lonely gig.

    The trouble is one of imagination. Cursed is the soloist who pauses, sometimes to think, to breathe, to find the nearest exit. Saxophonist Eric Barber, who has developed his technique along with a his study of jazz, classical, and world music, can draw from multiple sources for improvisation. Barber has played with Nels Cline, Vinny Golia, Wadada Leo Smith, Jeff Kaiser and in the electric Balkan band Balkana. This disc was beautifully recorded in the near perfect acoustical space of the Maybeck Recital Hall. Barber draws from Indian music freely, repeating patterns and ideas to keep the music in a continual flow. His complex structures and multiphonics suggest an infinite series of patterns and directions for him to follow. The disc opens with the overblown tenor saxophone playing on “Taksim,” bouncing notes and vibrations throughout the room. He follows with “Dark Mirror,”an impressive mathematical construction for soprano saxophone that favors repeated patterns which sound as if Barber is employing multitracking (he isn’t) . The joy here is the continual flow of ideas and music. From the light touch of his “Inner Conversation” to the blop blop playing on “Rubric,” these 47 minutes of music are a continual discovery of unfolding sound.

    –Mark Corroto,

    Eric Barber plays tenor and soprano sax. At least, that’s what he does here. The “Maybeck” in the title comes from the Maybeck Recital Hall in Berkeley, where this album was recorded. Not live, as near as I can tell, but simply in the empty hall to take advantage
    of the marvelous acoustics of the place.

    This is Barber alone, by the way. Just him and his muses and demons. The pieces themselves have starkly different characters. Barber is more than willing to deconstruct his own instruments in order to find original sounds, and he’s also able to play extremely technical fingerings in a fluid and expressive manner. His adventurousness and ability to shift gears are what really grab my ears.

    As for the acoustics of the recital hall–they’re amazing. As a former high school band fag, I can attest to the astonishing difference the right performance location can make. The Maybeck is warm, but not mushy. It’s forgiving, but not to the point of obscuring subtle moments. It sounds like a wonderful setting for the solo artist who wants to present his or her music in the best way possible.

    Barber’s compositions are intense and thought-provoking. His playing is as varied and skilled as his composing, and he really brings these pieces to life here. Top it off with the perfect setting, and you have a truly exceptional album.

    –Jon Worley, Aiding and Abetting, 4/2004

    Do you ever enter a state of mind where you’re just not up to listening to a certain kind of music? I do and the physical results around the Broken Face residence has recently been a growing tower of improv CDs that I haven’t even listened through one single time. What often happens when I actually listen is that I wonder where the hell my mind was at for taking so long to give the discs in question a fair chance. One such album is Eric Barber’s Maybeck Constructions on pfMentum. It’s an entirely improvised set of saxophone pieces which only briefly flows into obvious eruptions but most of the time rather concentrates on moving things forward with small gestures and a deconstructive way of putting multi-directional rhythms together to a functioning (or non-functioning depending on who you ask) whole. Barber brings a genre-defying approach to music and it’s with great pleasure that I can sense influences ranging from sheer improv and free jazz to Balkan and Indian music in his way of playing the saxophone. It’s not a remarkable record all the way through but has enough unexpected sonic twists as well as a surprisingly strong sense for composition to find its way back to the stereo more than twice.

    Mats, The Broken Face

    Maybeck Constructions takes a little while to get off the ground, but be patient — there are some attractive moments of improvisational inspiration here that justify the wait.

    The principle obstacle is Barber’s predilection for exploring a single extended technique, such as multiphonics or overblowing, as exhaustively as possible. “Taksim” takes this to an extreme; long, held multiphonic tenor saxophone blasts inundate the soundscape, to the detriment of the musical narrative flow. “Dark Mirror” favors breathless passages of repeated soprano sax figurations, played over and over, only gradually shifting to new collections of pitches. While Barber’s facility with difficult technical challenges is impressive, these two pieces seem to be too inward-focused; the saxophonist doesn’t clarify the musical progression enough to invite the listener into the experience.

    “Blossoming” and “Inner Conversation”, on the other hand, are sparkling and exciting performances, filled with interested melodic development, clear phrasing and a greater variety of activity. It’s almost as if Barber were testing the waters in the album’s early pieces, allowing the gestures contained therein to bloom more fully later on. “Excavations”, unfortunately, returns to the conceit of repeated ideas and techniques, wringing every last bit of angst out of a raspy, overblown yawp.

    When Barber doesn’t lose himself in process and integrates these challenging sounds into a larger formal design, he is a most engaging performer. It’s a pity that he doesn’t always force himself to play as wonderfully as he does on “Inner Conversation”. —

    -Christian Carey,

    Playing tenor and soprano saxes Eric Barber takes us to a place where creativity, experimentation, and originality rule. “Taksim” (8:24) is a long track where Barber wrestles with his instrument in what might be considered the musical equivalent of interval training. From the gutsy jams we move on
    to the next cut.

    “Dark Mirror” is not quite as long but it seems like it might be an inspired recital. I really enjoyed the muscular yet sweet stylings and his wide capacity of tonal playing. Many sounds flow from this talented artist. At times the music mimics a violin or other stringed instrument [!], at others it might be a myriad of car horns. The next track “Blossoming” ever so slowly buds and blossoms and many will probably skip it. “Rubric” is probably my favorite cut as he plays in a way that tells a story. This is experimental/creative music that presents the artist and his instrument without the clutter of [much musical] support. At times the music and musings are complex yet it follows his original approach to composition. The project [recorded at Maybeck Recital Hall] ends with a marathon effort. Titled “Excavations” Barber digs for over 12 minutes. He unearths sonic treasures mixed in with more common sounds for the pleasure of the listener. Still it is a workout (in a way) for the average listener. Barber clearly displays his talent and expertise as he delivers some fiery bursts midway through the cut. His blasts come across as accordion-like. A fine performance.

    A very creative album….

    –A. Canales, The CRITICAL REVIEW Service, 2523 Montana, El Paso, TX 79903,

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