6000° Kelvin
Stone Quarry Records SQR 003

Hopefully this CD won’t cause a feud among one of the first families of the Neo- Cons. One of the most prominently featured musicians here is New York-based tenor saxophonist Antoine Roney, exploring the limits of his horn with a group of like-minded improvisers.

But Roney’s brother, trumpeter Wallace and his sister-in-law pianist Geri Allen could be the Jen and Ben of the Young Lions. Photogenic and articulate, the two have proven that musicians restrained by the tradition are still capable of heartfelt work, even if the trumpeter, for instance, often sounds too much like Miles Davis circa 1963.

Yet Antoine Roney, who has worked in his brother’s band and with older mainstreamers like trumpeter Donald Byrd and pianist Ronnie Matthews, spends nearly 68 minutes on 6000° KELVIN trading links with four microtonalists whose connections are as much with contemporary New music as with jazz/improv.

Conservatory-educated guitarist/violinist Adam James Wilson and Bulgarian-born flautist Arto Artinian only gravitated towards the improvisation after hearing iconoclastic saxophonist Joe Manieri in Boston. Another Bostonian in the same circle is pianist Jonathan Vincent featured here, who recorded with condanctionist Masashi Harada, as did percussionist, Tatsuya Nakatani, also a playing partner of French avant-reedist Michel Doneda.

After hearing Wilson and Artinian though, the Roney reedman decided he could add something to their sound and the nine spontaneously composed pieces here are the result. Not only does the CD reveal the saxman’s command of cerebral, group improving, but his presence also frees the reductionists from too rigid application of that form. Nothing swings, but the languidly moving pieces are first-class examples of modern improv.

Throughout, the saxophonist’s smears, slurs, honks and swirls serve as a counterline to what the others are playing. Most prominently its textures help gather the others’ pointillism. On “Song of Tangra”, for instance, Roney’s smeary tongue-stopping reaches a vortex with Artinian’s singular flute notes, piano patterning from Vincent and echoing guitar plucks from Wilson. Soon Nakatani moves from singular bell pealing to constant rhythms. Hectoring guitar voicing and pulsating split tones from the reedist provide rigidity to complement the pianist’s elastic dynamics and counter harmonies.

“Coming of the Kali Yuga” and “Odessa Tolchok” provide contrasting readings of the partnership. The former, all piano key slaps, bird-like flute twitters and pantonal reed accents moves forward glacially, with the pitchsliding from Wilson’s string set wavering on top of a tuba-like continuum that could come from an echoed kettle drum or internal piano chording. Roney is barely there.

On the later, both Nakatani and Vincent provide a jazzy overlay with near Swing Era fills from the pianist and some beboppy cymbal smashes from the percussionist; Wilson even contributes a near walking bass line. All this allows the saxman to sound a sweeping, irregularly vibrated solo. Although no one would confuse his microtone trading with fiddler Wilson with John Handy’s work with Michael White, the double counterpoint is a close cousin to that realm of improv.

Elsewhere sul ponticello fiddling and distorted guitar pedal tones often mix it up with honks and bell-muting punctuation from Roney’s sax, again spurring high frequency action from the pianist and, at times, lower pitches from Artinian. Nonetheless, as impressive as the flautist’s work may be in New music contexts, most of the time here the tone range is from twitters to peeps.

Again, no track comes to a conventional conclusion, but by the time the ecclesial and atmospheric “Vespers” rolls around at the end, group melding is almost complete. Artinian’s pitches are deeper and more spacious, Vincent and Wilson’s backing is almost smoothly chromatic and Roney flutter tongues, whorls and twists in his solo.

With no sense of either the microtonalists or the Young Lion compromising, 6000° KELVIN could be brought to any family gathering with no hesitation. Maybe that family should be yours as well.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Klaxon Sunrise 2. Coming of the Kali Yuga 3. Odessa Tolchok 4. Dogfight 5. Tightrope Waltz 6. The Burning Tree 7. Song of Tangra 8. Whirlpool Centrifuge 9. Vespers

Personnel: Arto Artinian (flute); Antoine Roney (tenor saxophone); Adam James Wilson (7-string violin and fretless guitar); Jonathan Vincent (piano); Tatsuya Nakatani (percussion)