Sean Hamilton: Table for One (PFMCD135)

Jeff Kaiser

[playlist ids="3708"]

A collection of improvised vignettes for solo drum set, percussion, and vuvuzela

Currently nowhere,
Carrying nothing.

(Evolvement)
Acquiescence of, the

present
linear
impermanent

burgeon, [blossom]
bloom.

Table for One.

Back:
Table for One
Sean Hamilton

1. Cash Only
2. Value King
3. Solo Sport (1)
4. Energy Vampire
5. Solo Sport (2)
6. Acquiescence Of
7. Cynic Finick
8. Spiral/Summons
9. Acquiescence Of (reprise)
10. Growth/Bloom; Wilt
11. Dusk, Valley
12. Table for One

Table for One is a collection of short improvisations that explore my interests in the drum set as a solo instrument and as a vehicle for the merging of my creative interests that include contemporary classical music, free improvisation, noise, sound art, and electroacoustic music. Several of the takes feature additional traditional and found percussion instruments that are placed on the drums in an effort to expand the timbral possibilities of the kit. Except for a loose length limit, these improvisations were recorded without any predetermined concepts, structures, or forms.
-SH, August 2019

Improvised and recorded live in studio, St. Petersburg, Florida, February 2019

Recorded and mixed by Dan Byers, Rock Garden Recording
Mastered by Wayne Peet, Newzone Studio
Art and Layout by Eli Blasko

www.seanhamiltonmusic.com

PFMCD135
Copyright 2019

Currently on tour!

Sean Hamilton
Glitter City, Denver, CO
Friday, October 4, 7:30pm
$7-10

Sean Hamilton
Casper College, Wheeler Concert Hall
Sunday, October 6, 7:30pm
(Recital)
125 College Dr, Casper, WY 82601

Sean Hamilton
Casper College, Room 116, Music Building,
Monday, October 7, 12:00pm
(Clinic)
125 College Dr, Casper, WY 82601

Sean Hamilton
Duluth, MN
Wednesday, October 9

Sean Hamilton
Khyber Pass
Thursday, October 10
$10
1571 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
https://khyberpasscafe.com/

Sean Hamilton
Fermentation Fest, Reedsburg, WI
Saturday, October 12
https://www.fermentationfest.com/

Sean Hamilton
Elastic Arts
Sunday, October 13, 9:00pm
$10
3429 W Diversey #208, Chicago, Illinois 60647
http://www.elasticarts.org

Sean Hamilton
Phoenix510, Detroit, MI
Wednesday, October 16

Sean Hamilton
Slippery Rock University
Thursday, October 17, 7:30pm
(Recital)
Swope Music Hall, 1 Morrow Way, Slippery Rock, PA, 16057

Sean Hamilton
Slippery Rock University
Friday, October 18, 3:00pm
(Clinic)
Swope Music Hall, 1 Morrow Way, Slippery Rock, PA, 16057

Sean Hamilton
Penn State University
Sunday, October 20
(Recital)
Esber Hall
Music Building I, University Park, PA 16802

Sean Hamilton
Penn State University
Monday, October 21
(Clinic)
122 Music Building II University Park, PA 16802

Sean Hamilton
Fuse Factory
Friday, October 25
13 E. Tulane Rd. Columbus, OH, 43202
http://thefusefactory.org/

Sean Hamilton
James Eads Howe Memorial Cinema,
Tuesday, October 29
145 Woodland Ave, Lexington, Kentucky 40502
https://www.facebook.com/The-James-Eads-How-Memorial-Cinema-321168224689519/

Sean Hamilton
Proper Sake, Nashville, TN
Friday, November 1
628 Ewing Ave, Nashville, TN 37203
https://www.propersake.co/

Glen Whitehead Trio: The Living Daylights (PFMCD125)

Jeff Kaiser

[playlist ids="1553"]

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)
pfMENTUM
PFMCD125

The Living Daylights
Musical Notes

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

—Glen Whitehead

 

Jason Robinson / Janus Ensemble: Resonant Geographies (PFMLP115)

Jeff Kaiser

[playlist ids="1360"]

PLEASE NOTE: THIS PAGE IS FOR PURCHASING THE DOUBLE LP (VINYL) VERSION.
Please click here for the CD.

Resonant Geographies
Jason Robinson

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
Michael Dessen—trombone
Bill Lowe—bass trombone, tuba
Marcus Rojas—tuba
Liberty Ellman—guitar
Drew Gress—bass
George Schuller—drums
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

Track Titles:

Side A:
Facing East (10:41)
Futures Unimagined (8:12)

Side B:
Confluence (6:55)
Dreaming (8:24)

Side C:
Facing West (6:31)
Circuitry Unbound (8:44)

Side D:
Outcropping (12:14)

All compositions by Jason Robinson (ASCAP)
All rights reserved ℗ and © 2018 Jason Robinson

https://youtu.be/-43JeWvAKRI

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

Works cited
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.

pfMENTUM
PFMLP115
www.pfmentum.com

Jason Robinson / Janus Ensemble: Resonant Geographies (PFMCD115)

Jeff Kaiser

[playlist ids="1360"]

PLEASE NOTE: THIS PAGE IS FOR PURCHASING THE CD VERSION.
Click here for the double LP (vinyl)

Resonant Geographies
Jason Robinson

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
Michael Dessen—trombone
Bill Lowe—bass trombone, tuba
Marcus Rojas—tuba
Liberty Ellman—guitar
Drew Gress—bass
George Schuller—drums
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

Track Titles:

Facing East (10:41)
Futures Unimagined (8:12)
Confluence (6:55)
Dreaming (8:24)
Facing West (6:31)
Circuitry Unbound (8:44)
Outcropping (12:14)

All compositions by Jason Robinson (ASCAP)
All rights reserved ℗ and © 2018 Jason Robinson

https://youtu.be/-43JeWvAKRI

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

Works cited
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.

pfMENTUM
PFMCD115
www.pfmentum.com

Matty Harris Double Septet (PFMLP093)

Jeff Kaiser

[This is page is for ordering the VINYL VERSION.]

[playlist ids="969"]

Matty Harris Double Septet

Side A

1) Party Time 11:19

2) 10,000 Kimmys Gibbler 06:48

Side B

3) Cockapoo Army 08:37

4) Oh, A Little Day Trip Around the Crunch 08:54

Personnel:

Soprano and straight alto saxophones, contra-alto clarinet: Vinny Golia

Soprano, straight tenor and sopranino saxophones, bass clarinet: Matty Harris

Soprano saxophone: Paul Novros

Soprano and baritone saxophone: Ryan Parrish

Soprano and sopranino saxophones, piccolo: Joe Santa Maria

Trumpets: Louis Lopez, Brandon Sherman, Greg Zilboorg

Drum Sets: Tim Carr, Michael Lockwood

Contrabasses: Nathan Phelps, Jake Rosenzweig

Fender Rhodes: Garret Grow

Baritone Guitar: Maxwell Gualtieri
Recorded January 14, 2015 by John Baffa and Todd Hannigan at Brotheryn Studios in Ojai, CA

Mixed January – June 2015 by John Baffa at TV Tray Studios in Ventura, CA
Mastered July 16 2015 by Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA

Produced by Maxwell Gualtieri

Graphic Design by Jacob Halpern

PFMCD093

Matty Harris Double Septet (PFMCD093)

Jeff Kaiser

[This is page is for ordering the CD.]

[playlist ids="969"]

Matty Harris Double Septet

Side A

1) Party Time 11:19

2) 10,000 Kimmys Gibbler 06:48

Side B

3) Cockapoo Army 08:37

4) Oh, A Little Day Trip Around the Crunch 08:54

Personnel:

Soprano and straight alto saxophones, contra-alto clarinet: Vinny Golia

Soprano, straight tenor and sopranino saxophones, bass clarinet: Matty Harris

Soprano saxophone: Paul Novros

Soprano and baritone saxophone: Ryan Parrish

Soprano and sopranino saxophones, piccolo: Joe Santa Maria

Trumpets: Louis Lopez, Brandon Sherman, Greg Zilboorg

Drum Sets: Tim Carr, Michael Lockwood

Contrabasses: Nathan Phelps, Jake Rosenzweig

Fender Rhodes: Garret Grow

Baritone Guitar: Maxwell Gualtieri
Recorded January 14, 2015 by John Baffa and Todd Hannigan at Brotheryn Studios in Ojai, CA

Mixed January – June 2015 by John Baffa at TV Tray Studios in Ventura, CA
Mastered July 16 2015 by Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA

Produced by Maxwell Gualtieri

Graphic Design by Jacob Halpern

PFMCD093

Phil Skaller and Danny Holt Duo: Music of Mark Dresser (PFMCD062)

Jeff Kaiser

[playlist ids="510"]
Phil Skaller and Danny Holt Duo: Music of Mark Dresser

1 Flac (5:12)
2 Flocus (13:09)
3 Para Waltz (10:48)
4 Digestivo (9:37)
5 Aperitivo (12:33)

Philip Skaller and Danny Holt: pianos, celeste, toy piano, melodica, percussion
All compositions by Mark Dresser (Del Dresser Music/ASCAP)
Arrangements by Philip Skaller and Danny Holt
Recorded October and November 2008 and June 2009 at Roy O. Disney Music Hall, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
Piano Technician: Alan Eder
Engineered by Steve Rusch
Edited and Mixed by Edmund P. Monsef at The Hacienda, Los Angeles, CA
Mastered by Jeff Kaiser
Artwork by Iva Gueorguieva
Graphic Design by Ted Killian
Executive Producer: Danny Holt
This recording was made possible in part by a Subito grant from the Los Angeles chapter of the American Composers Forum.
© 2010 Philip Skaller and Danny Holt

I was quite surprised when Phil Skaller approached me about recording a whole CD of my compositions in duo with Danny Holt. Though I had composed this music between 1994 and 2008 for my own groups, and arranged it for various formations, I had never imagined it for two pianos.

I’ve known Phil since 2002 when he was my teaching assistant at Hampshire College in an improvisation class. I introduced some of my tunes to the students and Phil, especially, devoured the music and its improvisational concepts. I had been hearing the praises of Danny Holt for years from Phil, but it was not until 2008 that I first heard this duo perform a suite of my compositions at UC San Diego. I was quite impressed and flattered by the wit, musical virtuosity, and pure improvisational fantasy that these two gifted young musicians brought to my music.

The compositions represented on this CD were conceived as abstractions and deconstructions of known jazz forms and related idiomatic music. What Phil Skaller and Danny Holt have done is to deconstruct my deconstructions. They have taken my music in directions that I doubt that I would have ever conceived and in some ways, made the music more flexible and malleable.

The first track, Flac, recorded on “Aquifer” (Cryptogramophone), was originally designed as a rhythmically gear-shifting Klezmer-like tune that improvisationally develops from the material itself and returns to the theme. Phil and Danny’s version has a rhythmic and sound character reminiscent of both Conlon Nancarrow’s studies for player piano and John Cage’s works for prepared piano. The alternation of fragments of the tune and its improvisational implications comes in waves, yet a thread of the thematic materials is always present.
Flocus was composed for trumpet, voice, bass, piano and drums and recorded on “Force Green” (Soul Note). It was conceived as four independent lines, each in a different meter, which are layered one upon another and developed in collective improvisation. Phil and Danny’s version takes a different direction, introducing a more classical theme and variation approach, while each of the lines independently develops outside of the tempo grid. This interpretation, though referring to themes, transcends the materials and becomes a springboard for episodes of virtuoso invention and dramatic return.

Para Waltz was composed as a vehicle to melodically and harmonically improvise on a metric modulating jazz waltz. Danny and Phil’s interpretation takes a very different direction, initially eschewing the tempo aspect and focusing on a more spacious approach, layering the timbres of glockenspiel, piano, and piano harmonics. The temporal aspect isn’t highlighted until midway, with the introduction of cymbals demarcating the time. The thematic material is finally introduced whole and floats on out.

Similarly Digestivo, recorded on “Aquifer” and “The Marks Brothers” (W.E.R.F), was conceived to create a metric modulating twelve-bar blues in B-flat. My idea was to abstract the idea of ‘substitute changes’ traditionally applied to jazz harmony and apply it to the domain of tempo. Unlike the original, which has a single underlying tempo throughout, Danny and Phil’s version is freer, starting out of time. They eventually introduce the tune and the different tempos, but in the end, leave the form completely, in an expansive and satisfying way.

Aperitivo, composed for piano, bass, and voice, is an even more abstract version of the blues than Digestivo. Recorded on “Time Changes” (Cryptogramophone), this slower metric modulating twenty-four bar form in C minor doesn’t even articulate the ground pulse, creating a feel that is inherently looser and less polyrhythmic than Digestivo. Phil Skaller and Danny Holt’s version is an extremely inventive and expansive finale to the CD, utilizing pianos, toy piano, melodica, and percussion. Improvisationally, they’ve chosen an even more abstract approach, which alternates the gestalt of tempo changes of the head and a freer approach that abstracts motifs, melody, and an almost fugue-like beginning. At about minute nine the tune grinds into a vamp, modulates faster, and phases, juxtaposing shreds of the melody back into the vamp, and returning to the twenty-four bar head.

Hearing Phil Skaller and Danny Holt’s interpretations of my music is both affirming and inspiring. I am impressed with the combination of their virtuoso playing, interpretative skills, and pure musical imagination. I look forward to hearing what they do next.

Mark Dresser
September 2010

pfMENTUM CD062

PFMCD062

Brad Dutz: Nine Gardeners Named Ned (PFMCD026)

Jeff Kaiser

[playlist ids="414"]
BRAD DUTZ: mallet percussion, hand percussion
CHRIS WABICH: drumset, steel drum, percussion
KIM RICHMOND: Bb clarinet
BOB CARR: bass clarinet
SARA SCHOENBECK: bassoon
ELLEN BURR: C flute, alto flute, piccolo
JOHN FUMO: trumpet, piccolo trumpet
KRIS TINER: trumpet, flugelhorn #4, #8, #9
WILLIAM ROPER: tuba, spoken word
TREY HENRY: acoustic bass
DEAN TABA: acoustic bass #4, #6, #8, #9
ANDERS SWANSON: acoustic bass solo #1
JASPER DUTZ [age 9]: bass clarinet, Bb clarinet

1. Look at the pretty weeds…they’re dead 13:38
2. Rotted vegetables…too late to pick 3:45
3. Rotted fruit…infested with insects 6:07
4. Distribute fertilizer…evenly 5:56
5. I like brown leaves especially when they’re torn 11:54
6. Leaf blowers are stinky…and loud 2:31
7. Norbert rakes bark…and mulch 7:58
8. Wicked late for nite blooming…but not dusk 6:16
9. Plant the bulbs…frequently 3:47

all compositions by Brad Dutz • (c) 2005, leakyspleen music, BMI
recorded by BRAD DUTZ 2003-2004
mixed and mastered by WAYNE PEET at NEWZONE, july 2004-jan 2005
cover cartoons: JASPER DUTZ • layout and design: KAORU MANSOUR and JEFF KAISER
thanks to: YAMAHA, VIC FIRTH, PAISTE, REMO, MOUNTAIN RYTHYM

 

NINE GARDENERS NAMED
1. Look at the pretty weeds…they’re dead
Kim Richmond-clarinet [solo]; John Fumo-trumpet [solo]; Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon [solo]; Anders Swanson-acoustic bass [solo]; Brad Dutz-vibes, marimba, crotales, bongos, cajon bongos, gong; Chris Wabich-drumkit; William Roper-tuba; Bob Carr-bass clarinet; Ellen Burr-flute; Trey Henry-acoustic bass
2. Rotted vegetables…too late to pick
Bob Carr-bass clarinet; Ellen Burr-alto flute; Brad Dutz-marimba; Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon; Kim Richmond-clarinet; text created and spoken by William Roper-tuba
3. Rotted fruit…infested with insects
same as above plus Chris Wabich-perc; featuring William Roper
4. Distribute fertilizer…evenly
Chris Wabich-steel drum [solo]; Jasper Dutz-bass clarinet;
Ellen Burr-flute; Dean Taba-acoustic bass; Kris Tiner-trumpet;
Brad Dutz-repique jamau, vibes, darabuka, cymbals, crotales Hadjira, khol; Ellen Burr-flutes
5. I like brown leaves especially when they’re torn
Chris Wabich-drumkit, percussion, steel drum [solo]; Brad Dutz-xylophone, congas, bongos, darabuka, marimba [solo]; Bob Carr-bass clarinet [solo]; Ellen Burr-flute; Trey Henry-acoustic bass; John Fumo-trumpet; Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon; Kim Richmond-clarinet; William Roper-tuba
6. Leaf blowers are stinky…and loud
Brad Dutz-marimba, vibes; Ellen Burr-flute;, Dean Taba-acoustic bass; William Roper-tuba; Jasper Dutz-bass clarinet, Bb clarinet;
John Fumo-trumpet
7. Norbert rakes bark…and mulch
Ellen Burr-piccolos [solo]; William Roper-tuba; John Fumo-piccolo trumpet; Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon; Bob Carr-bass clarinet; Kim Richmond-clarinet; Brad Dutz-piccolo snare, field snare, orchestra bells, bass drums, piatti, snare drum; Chris Wabich-piccolo snare, field snare, bass drum, piatti, snare drum
8. Wicked late for nite blooming…but not dusk
Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon; Bob Carr-bass clarinet; Kim Richmond-clarinet; Dean Taba-acoustic bass; William Roper-tuba; Kris Tiner-trumpet; Brad Dutz-vibes, crotales, cymbals, xylophone; Ellen Burr-flutes
9. Plant the bulbs…frequently
Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon; Bob Carr-bass clarinet; Kim Richmond-clarinet; Dean Taba-acoustic bass; William Roper-tuba; Kris Tiner-trumpet; Brad Dutz-marimba, xylophone; Ellen Burr-flute, piccolo; Chris Wabich-steel drum

pfMENTUM CD026

PFMCD026

Tom McNalley Trio: Tom McNalley Trio (PFMCD018)

Jeff Kaiser

[playlist ids="391"]
Tom McNalley Trio

Tom McNalley: guitar
Jonas Tauber: bass
Ken Ollis: drums

1) Reddog 18:32
2) Orange Needle Society 13:53
3) ZHE 14:34
4) Mourned 9:54
5) Gallery 421 7:30
6) Loss 8:01
Total Playing Time: 72:24

All compositions by Tom McNalley, (C)2004 Tom McNalley Music, ASCAP
Recorded at Cappos Cafe, 10.6.03 by Keegan Quinn
CD mastering, art design, and layout by Jeff Kaiser
Photographs by Jonas Tauber and Tom McNalley

After getting the initial version of this CD, I sent copies to several people to see what they thought. One was my friend, author and music critic Richard Meltzer. He called and said that he loves the CD – very much, in fact – and if I wanted liner notes, he would write them. Naturally, and with gratitude, I took him up. — Tom McNalley
******

Hey, listen — I got something important to tell you:

Tom McNalley is the youngest Great Musician I’ve ever encountered.

Great! Amazing! To put things in even partial perspective, the last young’un anywhere near as adept and inventive and passionately original was probably David Murray, pre-WSQ, back when he was still a ferocious motherfucker.

Tom McNalley IS a ferocious motherfucker. By turns savage and tender — a killer and healer — nutso and nutty, then logical/lucid as Jerkoff Sebastian Bach, his playing is as hotly/coolly/sanely/madly a-dance and a-prance (at peace-and-war) with abstract notions as it is with direct emotional one-on-one — “interest” and “feeling” existentially melded (no mean feat) — “jazzy” in the least jaded, least guitar-baggaged, most mammal-elegant sense, while partaking EQUALLY of the dirty screaming scuzz of postwar blues and rock rock rock and roll…fuggit.

Sophisticated beyond its maker’s 21 years, Tom’s music spins, spills and spits forth whole vast sonic WORLDS (pardon my French), but if you’re lookin’ to hear Other Guitarists in his playing, well, you won’t hear other guitarists in his playing. Okay, splashes and soundings maybe — f’r sure he’s picked up “things” from Hendrix, McLaughlin, Sharrock, Nels Cline, Derek Bailey, Alberts Collins and King — but rarely anything as explicit as a borrowed “idea,” a riff, even a lick.

“I’ve never been lick-oriented,” says Tom. “I’ve tried to develop a sense of melody that will serve me, that’ll do me some good, and I always like to see how others handle it, but not through their licks.”

By “melody,” um, you mean tunes? Tunefulness?

“No, more like just the basis for telling a story — the unique and individual approaches of players I admire, the ones who seem to be emotionally honest, who have the chops to communicate directly and honestly. Most aren’t even guitarists. Rob Blakeslee is and has been very important to me, seeing how he makes the music that is his — the concepts he brings to his trumpet playing.

Ayler…Braxton…Charlie Parker, certainly — but not for anything to do with ‘bebop.’ Bebop as such has very little meaning to me.”
And what is the importance, the weight in the equation, of “free”?

“In a sense, I view composition as no more than a set of instructions for the band. There are things I want to happen, but they’re general. I like looseness — flexibility — so the music can go anywhere. In some cases there’ll be a written line, but usually no more than a suggestion of bass line, rhythmic groove, things like that. Half the tunes in this set, on this recording, are freely improvised — completely — there’s no written or suggested anything. Even the stuff that sounds written is very spur-of-the-moment. In real time, not trying to play to a pre-existent notion, but at the same time going for and building a musical totality, the players communicated the compositions to each other. We just played and listened.”

Played and listened: dig it!

Look, I don’t wanna make with the ultra-superlatives again — well, maybe I do — but this here album, on which Tom, bassist Jonas Tauber and drummer Ken Ollis explore, with extreme malice (and extreme care and definitude), the MYSTERY OF INTIMACY — stripmine it — achieve near-total communion — is to my ears the HOTTEST debut alb by a guitar guy & co. since Are You Experienced? Hendrix. Before you were born (that’s how old I am).

It is also — pardon my carried-away — one of the great trio albs, period, y’know like ever, up there with Trio in Real Time by Richard Grossman, the v. best of Bill Evans with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, and the bestest by Air with Steve McCall. The music these humpers make together is outstanding and astounding…I wouldn’t shit ya.

Hey — I love this record — ‘scuse me — disc. I hope you will too.

— Richard Meltzer, Portland, 2004

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