Richard Valitutto / Dave Wilson: SLANT (PFMCD121)
Richard Valitutto, piano
Dave Wilson, tenor saxophone
1. set (zajdi) (3:42)
2. enviros (2:12)
3. -i—e- (8:59)
4. suspiros (3:08)
5. what is the name of that (4:56)
6. poeme (3:13)
7. me then you then me then you then me (2:47)
8. p-tch-s (7:01)
9. you then me then you then me then you (3:46)
10. rise (2:42)
All compositions by Richard Valitutto and Dave Wilson
Recorded and mixed by Vanessa Parr at the Recording Studio at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Los Angeles, June 10-11 and 27-28, 2016
Mastered by Justin DeHart, Anaheim, California, January 16-17, 2017
Additional engineering by Lorenzo Bühne, Wellington, New Zealand, January 17, 2017
©2018, Richard Valitutto Music (ASCAP) and Hamlin Lake Publishing (ASCAP)
Graphic Design by Ted Killian
The Aaron Copland Fund forMusic (logo)
Special thanks to the Aaron Copland Fund for Music Recording Program, the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, and the Longy School of Music of Bard College for their generous financial support of this album project. Additional thanks to Jeff Kaiser, Maxwell Gualtieri, and the entire team at pfMENTUM for their edifying interest in and unflagging patience with this project’s development over the last few years as just one part of their admirable long-term efforts to strengthen and bring together the experimental/creative music community at large through the recording arts.
SLANT bears the marks of our interest in exploring possibilities as performers composing together instantaneously and spontaneously. This project came together over a period of months, as we cultivated improvisational compositions, revisited them as compositional improvisations, and—circling back repeatedly—layered on top of each the lingering remnants of previous iterations. Tethered as they are to our personal musical pasts, intersections, and divergences, the sounds on these recordings push and pull one another into our own comfortable and uncomfortable areas as listeners and players, leading us into new ways of feeling the air move around us, and moving through that air and into it ourselves.
The recordings of this project came to life just before—and in the midst of—a liminal period when my own path was diverted. It shifted unexpectedly but by my own choice, in a direction that I knew, at the time, would open and close other paths and set new directions. For Richard and (especially) for me, the awareness of my impending departure from Los Angeles permeated the ways the sounds were conceived at all stages of composition, including their capture in recorded form.
The interplay, the interaction, the ways that we move with and against one another —all of these gestures in SLANT take oblique pathways that don’t so much lead to a hoped-for culmination but, instead, end up in a place not previously conceived.
Wellington, New Zealand
The pathways spiraling out of set (zajdi) originate in Macedonia, where Dave has been immersed in sound worlds that involve at least a thread of music either emerging from—or gesturing towards—rural life. “Zajdi, zajdi jasno sonce” (Set, set bright sun) is a popular traditional song that slowly unfolds, allowing the singer to display their melismatic facility and virtuosity. The song’s lyrics address the bright sun (telling it to set) and the bright moon (telling it to drown itself). When the text eventually turns to address the forest (which is the “sister” of the singer) it tells it to darken itself along with the singer: the forest for its leaves, the singer for their youth. The last words of the text lament: “your leaves, O forest sister, will return to you again; my youth, O forest sister, will not return to me.” Typically a mournful song drenched in beauty, our reading of the song also shows the aggression and darkness of youth’s furious passing. Forming the melodic and dramatic foundation of this work, the agitated, plangent saxophone lines are supported by a piano part that was directly inspired by another southeastern European influence: the Romanian spectral composer Horațiu Rădulescu, particularly his late piano sonatas.
In enviros we explore the “inner world” of both instruments’ sounds: piano harmonics and saxophone subtones. The compositional concept in this case is not so much linear or narrative as “environmental.” This yields a different improvised performance each time it’s performed, while the piece retains the same distinct feeling and texture. (In the same way that a certain patch of landscape or a particular city street is always identifiably itself and yet is shaped and reshaped anew by those that move through it, the light that strikes it, and the weather patterns that color it from day to day.) Air, space, and resonance come in and out of contact with one another, the shimmering microtonal harmonies trembling as they layer, creating the environmental texture.
-i—e- is a compositional structure based on one of the synthetic scales created by the boundary-pushing American composer, alto saxophonist, bass clarinetist, and flautist Eric Dolphy. In -i—e-, saxophonist and pianist take turns improvising cadenza-like monologues within the scale’s prismatic world of fleeting tonal allusions. After the extended solos, the players converge in ecstatic agreement on a composed melodic head based on the scale, the apotheosis of the improvisation. The instruments guide one another along self-generated paths to assume new trajectories that, for a moment, briefly converge.
suspiros sounds the sighing exasperation, release, and mourning of impending departure, loss, and gain in an impromptu ballad. Super- imposing a microtonal saxophone melody over a tonal/modal piano accompaniment, this piece doesn’t settle or provide catharsis, but remains and persists— pushing and pulling as it breathes in and out.
what is the name of that leans heavily on Ornette Coleman and Prime Time. It takes Coleman’s “What is the name of that song?” and places his horn line on hammers and strings, recasts the electric bass on the horn and interweaves the guitars and drums parts throughout. Multiple melodies, temporalities, and tone colors point this performance in many directions, folding it back again on itself with new creases, and finishing in manic abandon.
poeme is a musing on the mystical, color-drenched music of the late-Romantic early-20th century Russian composer Aleksandr Skryabin, specifically, Opus 69, No. 1, one of his many “Poèmes” for solo piano. This performance takes direct inspiration from the many accounts of the pianist-composer’s seemingly improvised performances of his own works, further illuminated by his idiosyncratic rhythmic notation and a harmonic language almost entirely derived from his synthetic chords.
When we conceptualized me then you then me then you then me, we took turns leading, following, and finding the space in between the constructed dichotomy of leading and following.
p-tch-s is a systematic progression through the anatomy of the instruments themselves, moving from one tactile space to another, embracing sonic possibilities and realizing points of intersection just as they are slipping away.
We’re taking turns again in you then me then you then me then you, but this time you are following me, and then I follow you.
The patterns that emerge from rise point to something new, something incomplete and unformed, something not yet known or not to be known, something that remains, more uncertainties, fewer known ways ahead, acknowledging that perhaps closure is best reached via more questions and fewer explanations.
Los Angeles, CA – New York, NY
Wellington, New Zealand