|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention Michaël Attias
Clean Feed CF 232
Olaf Rupp/Joe Williamson/Tony Buck
Weird Weapons 2
Creative Sources CS197 CD
Loop Records 1013
ILK 179 CD
Something In The Air:
Expat Canadians Create High-Class Improv
By Ken Waxman
Almost from the time the professional music business was established in this country, the expected route for success has been for artists to head off to the larger market down south and set up shop there. Canadians from Percy Faith and Maynard Ferguson to Joni Mitchell and Teresa Stratas effectively followed that formula. But today, as American musical hegemony lessens and modern communications almost literally shrink the world, musicians, especially those who play improvised music, can demonstrate that a permanent home in Europe is as beneficial as becoming an American resident.
Take Vancouver-born Joe Williamson for instance. On Weird Weapons 2
Creative Sources CS197 CD the bassist who now lives in Stockholm after stints in London, Berlin and Montreal, is matched with German guitarist Olaf Rupp and drummer Tony Buck, an Australian turned Berliner, for two extended selections of intuitive improv. No lounge guitar trio, this band creates sonic sparks that almost visibly fly every which way. Rupp’s constant, intense strumming often elasticizes into slurred fingering as Buck buzzes drumstick on cymbals, pops his toms, door-knocks his snares and rattles and reverberates any number of bells, chains and wood blocks for additional textures. Keeping the improvisations grounded is Williamson, who splays, stretches or saws upon his instrument’s strings, scroll and body wood when he’s not creating added continuum by slapping out pedal point resonation. On the nearly 30-minute “Buckram”, the three reach such a level of polyphonic coherence that the cumulative textures seem to ooze into every sonic space. Moving to the forefront then fading back into the ensemble, Rupp pinpoints jagged licks that eventually accelerate to stentorian multi-string runs, as Buck concentrates pitter-pattering and agitatedly clanking into tremolo whacks. Finally, a climax is reached, as Williamson’s multi-string variations, consisting of col legno strokes vibrating with a near-electronic pulse, push the three to a decisive conclusion.
Moving less than 300 kilometres southwest to Copenhagen, lives drummer Kevin Brow, an Orangeville native and part of the trio on Hopscotch ILK 179 CD completed by Italian-born tenor saxophonist Francesco Bigoni, another Copenhagen resident, plus local guitarist Mark Solborg. Paced and cooperative, Brow’s rhythmic sensibility here is like Williamson’s on the other CD. Brow’s backbeat advances or bonds the others’ extended techniques during 10 notable improvisations. With Solberg’s solos including distorted power chords with rock music antecedents plus organ-like echoes, and Bigoni’s bitten-off reed strategies accelerating to intense, repetitive phraseology, the drummer’s playing creates thematic definition. Case in point is Almost, Before Brow’s hard thwacks define a conclusive tipping point where unison harmonies from the guitarist and saxist advance to similar legato patterning, the variegated strategy from each differs markedly. Solberg’s licks are trebly and echoing, while Bigoni’s behind-the-beat tones split and squeak. The percussionist can also express himself more forcefully as he does with carefully positioned press rolls and flanges on “Brainwashing”. Meantime the saxophonist appears to be exploring the limits of his instrument with intense vibrato, lip bubbling sprays and pressurized staccato tones, as serpentine guitar strokes harden into splayed fingering plus crunching, echoing twangs, leavened by a bit of amp buzz. Bigoni’s tone alternating among magisterial reed quivers, speech-like inflection and legato lines, which helps define the remaining tracks’ scope(s).
Over in the United Kingdom, the band Splice consists of two British players – trumpeter Alex Bonney and drummer Dave Smith – plus French reedist Robin Fincker, who has lived in London for a dozen years and Montreal-born Pierre Alexandre Tremblay. Tremblay, who plays bass guitar and electronics, has taught at England’s University of Huddersfield since 2005 and oversees its electronic music studio. Perhaps that’s why this disc is entitled LAB, Loop Records 1013. It certainly has a more extensive electronic palate than the others. Although slippery and shuddering bass guitar runs are heard infrequently throughout, Tremblay’s electronics maintain the sometimes opaque methodical pulsations which pervade the disc. A track such as “The Wanderer” is smooth and bouncy, built on Fincker’s chromatic clarinet runs, Bonney’s trumpet obbligatos, a shuffle drum beat and electro-acoustic coloring that could be Arabic music played on an accordion. The blurry wave forms which elsewhere quiver alongside, process, or complement instrumental textures such as alphorn-like vibration from Fincker’s tenor saxophone, Bonney’s brassy or muted asides and drum pops and backbeat, are more upfront on “Luna Verde”. Stacked horn lines, sliding bass guitar licks and percussion rebounds are accompanied by processed textures that come in-and-out of aural focus. This crackling interface concretely outlines the theme statement from the harmonized horns.
Not surprisingly of course, the stateside lure still exists and is beneficial for some musicians. Vancouver-born, Toronto-educated Pianist Kris Davis, has, after a decade in New York, become one of the go-to musicians there. While the Canadians on the other CDs may provide the backdrop for improvisations, Davis not only plays on Novela Clean Feed CF 232 CD by Tony Malaby’s nine-piece band, but wrote all the arrangements and conducts. A career retrospective for Malaby, Davis recasts six of his original compositions to show off his tenor and soprano saxophone prowess. The extended “Remolino” for example is given a Mexicali flavor by intertwined horn lines broadened with Dan Peck’s harsh tuba snorts and drummer John Hollenbeck’s press rolls. Dramatic chording from the pianist introduces a Malaby soprano saxophone solo which reaches an elevated level of pressurized multiphonics before downshifting to moderato timbres in unison with the other horns. Before a climax of piano key plinks and a brass fanfare, the saxophonist winds his way among clanks and scrapes from the percussionist and trombonist Ben Gerstein’s brays as close harmonies are produced by alto saxophonist Michael Attias, baritone saxophonist Andrew Hadro and Joachim Badenhorst’s bass clarinet. Carefully shaping arrangements to expose distinct sound tinctures like xylophone rhythms or plunger trombone friction, Davis makes “Floral and Herbaceous” another highpoint. Following trumpeter Ralph Alessi’s lead and ending with a crescendo of staccato noises, the tune plays out as a dual between Malaby’s distinctive soprano reed bites and a sequence of more muted tones from the baritone saxophonist.
Whether it’s as co-leader, arranger, teacher or improviser, each of these Canadians appears to have found the proper foreign context for his or her musical development.
-- For Whole Note Vol. 17 #5
February 5, 2012
Renku in Coimbra
Clean Feed CF 162 CD
Oleś Brothers with Rob Brown
Live at SJC
Fenommedia Live Series FM 09-008
Double bass and drums power and patterns are the reason for the success of both these trio CDs which also feature – and in one case is lead by – an alto saxophonist. Nonetheless, these cohesive qualities would likely be present no matter who was the third partner.
Poland’s most notable rhythm section, twin brothers, bassist Marcin Oleś and drummer Bartłomiej “Brat” Oleś are a lot more than the Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb of Eastern Europe. Although their skills as close-knit accompanists have benefited musicians ranging from German woodwind player Theo Jörgensmann to American cellist Erik Friedlander, they also produce sessions and – as in this case – compose the music. Not only has Brat Oleś in particular supplied memorable tunes for this CD, but the two spur New York saxophonist Rob Brown to his most impressive soloing on record. Considering Brown travels in the company of players such as bassist William Parker and pianist Mathew Ship that’s high praise.
Although bassist John Hébert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi together have been Israeli-American saxophonist Michaël Attias’ rhythm section since 2003, they’re also busy with a variety of other projects. Takeishi has also worked with Anthony Braxton as well as Brown and Friedlander, while Hébert plays with trombonist Joe Fielder and pianist Benoît Delbecq. More tellingly, the bassist contributed four of the eight tunes on this session and his thick thumps and walking keeps everything balanced. Meantime Takeishi uses a variety of percussion implements to add novel coloration and shore up Attias understated style. The Haifa-born saxophonist, who was raised in Paris and Minneapolis was also mentored by Braxton and has paid sideman dues with drummer Paul Motian and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum.
Recorded in a Gliwice jazz club in 2008, Live at SJC could be the 21st Century equivalent of Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section from 1957. Although Brown’s sharp and piercing tone is closer to Jackie McLean’s, “Brat” Oleś constant clatter, rumbles and rolls plus cymbal sizzles as well as his brother’s slippery plucks, strums and reverberations provide the necessary impetus for the saxophonist as Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones did for the saxophonist on the Pepper LP.
Not that Brown needs much prodding during the CD’s more than 75½ minutes. Gritty runs flutter tonguing and glissandi extensions are just a few of the ways he exposes every note pattern nuance to the audience. During the three-part “Here & Now Suite” for instance, his wet trilling, high-pitched split tones and node extensions are prominent during nearly every solo. The Oleś’ responses to his nearly ceaseless mutiphonic playing are circular cross pulsing from the drummer and curvaceous string pumping from the bassist.
Each man also has suitable solo showcases, with Marcin Oleś at one point slip-sliding timbres up the strings; at another doubled string slapping; both of which leads to andante walking. Meanwhile, blunt drum-top strokes and cymbal prestidigitation characterize some of Brat Oleś’ rhythmic thrusts. But if Brown frequently seems to be wrenching every last sweaty ounce of rippled trills from his horn, the drummer’s strategy is more indulgent.
Although Brown’s reed-biting and note squishing is tautly expressed most of the time, he relaxes enough on “Ash Tree” to assay what in these circumstances is a melancholy mid-range ballad. Spreading harsh, altissimo timbres, he links up with low-pitched bowed bass strokes and unattached cymbal rustles. Reaching a climax with intense tongue vibrating in unison with Brat Oleś’ subtle patterning, Brown exits with trumpet-like timbres as every wisp of air is squeezed from his horn.
If Brown’s reed technique on Live can be compared to the use of a steak knife, then Attias’ on Renku in Coimbra is more like that of a butter knife. That isn’t a putdown. Each piece of flatware has a particular function, and Attias’ style is as languid and relaxed as Brown’s is tense and agitated.
Note this particularly during Hébert’s “Universal Constant” which showcases the saxman’s discursive, yet lyrical trilling. Meantime the bassist scrubs and plunks his strings, while Takeishi could be using knitting needles to sound thinner vibrations from cymbals and other parts of his extended kit. Although he’s consistently melodic, his indolent runs are durable as well, and infrequently reflect harsh vibrations.
This track and others are traditional enough to feature a recapping of the theme at the end. Before that there’s plenty of solo room – both during the almost obligatory turnaround and elsewhere. Pianist Russ Lossing even makes a brief, but potent, appearance on one track, recorded like the others at a studio in Coimbra, Portugal, about 3½ months before the Brown-Oleś Brothers CD.
Attias says that Lee Konitz and Jimmy Lyons were two of his earliest influences on alto saxophone. Konitz’s graceful and unhurried stylings are evident on more than the one Konitz composition recorded here. Instructively, the trio’s energetic reading of the latter’s “Sorry” doesn’t differ markedly from how they – and Attias in particular – treat Hébert’s “Wels” or the saxophonist’s own “Do & the Birds”. The latter is almost a rhythm section demonstration, with Takeishi’s mismatched nerve beats, cymbal shakes and wood-block strokes evolving in broken-octave concordance with guitar-like twangs from below the bridge of Hébert’s bass. By the time the saxophonist enters with a mellow texture, the resulting rubato coloration and textural echoes could also be ascribed to the bull fiddler’s almost identical harmonies.
As for his own “Wels”, Hébert’s role is slinky and secondary as the drums bounce and rebound while the altoist hooks onto the treble melody, rubs and caresses it and moves it away from eccentric timbres. Nonetheless, the piece is cantilevered by hard rim shots and fleet-fingered bass string twangs before the lightly accented head is recapped.
Involving musicians of varied backgrounds, both trio sessions demonstrate how, with improvised music a particular, circumstantial alignment can produce first-class music, which can be captured in usual places.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Live: 1. Here & Now Suite Part I – Past 2. Here & Now Suite Part II – Present 3. Here & Now Suite Part III – Future 4. Rebeaming 5. Black Eagle 6. Ash Tree 7. Monkey’s Hour
Personnel: Live: Rob Brown (alto saxophone); Marcin Oleś (bass) and Bartłomiej Brat Oleś (drums)
Track Listing: Renku: 1. Creep 2. Thingin’ 3. Do & the Birds 4. Fenix Culprit* 5. Wels 6. Sorry 7. Universal Constant 8. Creep (Reprise)
Personnel: Renku: Michaël Attias (alto saxophone); Russ Lossing (piano)*; John Hébert (bass) and Satoshi Takeishi (drums and percussion)
August 2, 2010
Clean Feed CF051
Recorded more than seven year ago, the only puzzling aspect of this exciting CD is why it had to wait so long to be released.
Perhaps its because 1999 was a half-generation ago in the jazz-improv world, with the musicians here even less known than today and unable to interest local record companies in the product. The later handicap was overcome by going offshore Clean Feed is Portuguese although the excellent improvisers featured here still have undeservedly low profiles.
Perhaps the best know now is powerful bassist Chris Lightcap, who works with, among others, multi-reedman Anthony Braxton. Violinist Sam Bardfeld and French hornist Mark Taylor who are featured on half of CREDOs eight tracks have played with percussionist Kevin Norton and Cuban percussionist Roberto Juan Rodriguez (Bardfeld); and as part of altoist Henry Threadgills Very Very Circus and George Schullers Orange Then Blue big band (Taylor). Drummer Igal Foni has recorded with reedist Avram Fefer and trombonist Steve Swell among others; while trombonist Reut Regev has been part of saxophonist Assif Tsahar New York Underground Orchestra and saxophonist Ras Moshes Music Now Society band.
Israeli-born, like Foni and Regev, leader Attias was brought up in the Midwest and now lives in New York. His list of credits includes membership in Walter Thompsons Orchestra, Ramon Rodriguezs Latin Ensemble and various groups led by Braxton. An accomplished composer all the tunes are his the tracks reference Latin hymns, popular standards, bebop and Sephardic liturgy. Cognizant of how best to voice three different horns, fiddle, bass and drums, nearly every tune is bursting with unbridled energy. If there are any shortcomings its that most of them adhere to the conventional head-solo-solo-head formula.
Still the level of inspiration makes the solos worth hearing. Regev, who is now also a New Yorker playing everything from salsa and funk to Caribbean and contemporary music, is in particularly fine fettle. Her clear articulation polishes notes to a fine luster on a slow-burning piece like Orange, while the title tune is characterized by bluesy, tremolo variations on her part.
Darn that Darn, which may or may not be a contrafact of Darn that Dream, unfolds from unison polyphony to double- and triple-tonguing from the trombonist, as Attias alto saxophone timbres wind their way around her with whinnying pitch modulations.
Lightcap offers up a few example of powerful rasgueado-like pummeling, but is usually content to maintain the beat with Foni. Staying true to his rhythmic function, the traps man introduces beat variations from pseudo conga-like drumming on Hot Mountain Song to explosive cymbal, bass drum and nerve-beat stick play on Credo.
Similar fast-paced compositions, Hot Mountain Song with its echoes of Israeli music, and Mes Petites Amoureuses, show off Taylor and Bardfelds talents. On the former the violinist turns out a twisting, double-stopping rubato solo on top of woody, bass splaying from Lightcap; while the later not only showcases the ripe mellowness of Taylor horn, but also concludes with double counterpoint among pinpoint turns from the fiddler and flutter-tongued pulses from Taylor.
That piece is another highlighting Attias trilled and slide-slipping obbligato and other reed invention. His grainy tone on the liturgical Berechit connects to the melodys Sephardic and thus African roots, with grainy punctuation before the bands shout chorus.
Still, the restrictedly-named Is is the stand-out composition, with the polyrhythmic performance encompassing forefront metallic nerve beats from Foni, cat-gut shrills from Bardfeld and a slip-sliding reed line with bite from Attias. After the brass transforms a rubato counterline into an interlude of lip-buzzy growling, the returning theme is layered with the other instruments contributions. Climax is reaches as the final note is held by all for 10 seconds, until the players collectively run out of breath.
CREDO suggests that someone should get Attias, his band and original compositions back in a record studio pronto if not sooner.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1.Credo* 2. Is* 3. Orange 4. Dream That Darn 5. Hot Mountain Song* 6. Mes Petites Amoureuses* 7. Labat 8. Berechit
Personnel: Reut Regev (trombone[except for 7] ); Mark Taylor (French horn)*; Michaël Attias (alto and baritone saxophones); Sam Bardfeld (violin)*; Chris Lightcap (bass); Igal Foni (drums)
May 22, 2006
EDWARD RATLIFF WITH RHAPSODALIA
Barcelona in 48 Hours
Strudelmedia CD 008
More than a soundtrack, yet as descriptive as program music should be, BARCELONA IN 48 HOURS is a minor classic, codifying and amplifying the sounds composed by New York-based Edward Ratliff for a short film of the same name he co-directed and co-produced with photographer Anja Hitzenberger.
Designed both as a portrait of choreographer David Zambrano and a reflection of the Catalan citys blended cultures, it can stand on its own divorced from the images. Ratliff himself plays cornet, trombone, accordion, celeste or Fender Rhodes on different tracks, and isnt present at all for three of the 11 selections. Auspiciously as well, hes employed nine of the most accomplished improvisers in the New York area to help him out.
Playing everything from Middle Eastern dumbek drum to conventional jazzs saxophone and trombone, the others work with Ratliff to create an impressionistic, idiosyncratic set of variations on the themes. You could define the CD as world music, if the term didnt carry intimations of watering down local rhythms to pander to Western tastes. The composer hasnt done this in the least. Instead he uses strands of Catalan, North African, French, Spanish and North and South American sounds to weave an original synthesis.
Shorter tracks are mere image interpretation intermezzos. Usually they involve accordionist Charlie Giordano squeezing out variations on the theme in the French or Spanish style by himself or in duo. Sometimes its with the composer himself on celeste, sounding all the world like the what you would hear as a toy ballerina spins atop a music box.
Longer compositions rate higher. Starting at the conclusion, Sintuba, the final track manages to mix a North African-Sephardic flavor via musette-resembling alto saxophone line from Michaël Attias, who often plays with pianist Anthony Coleman, with percussion sounds that are more Afro-Cuban jazz than Catalan traditional. Considering that drummer Kevin Norton has worked with everyone from composer Anthony Braxton to Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer, and dumbek pounder Seido Salifoski is part of the cross-cultural Paradox trio this tradition melding is no surprise.
Negotiating hocketing blats on trombone and bee-buzzing triplets on muted cornet, Ratliff is often cushioned by massed polyphonic horns. Sometimes double time flams and bounces from Norton then give way to snaky lines from violinist Sam Bardfeld, whose background encompasses work with composer John Zorn and Latin jazz groups. Venturing musically across the Straits of Gibraltar here, Bardfelds output ends up being half Indo-Arabic and half Stuff Smith. Meantime Attias note construction comes across as if Sonny Stitt was playing in a souk. Friction and rattling from the exotic percussion overlay walking bass from John Herbert, until everyone masses to reprise the theme as a climax and conclusion.
Earlier, Night Dance, which adds guitarist Doug Wieselman, an erstwhile Lounge Lizard to the band, features string sounds that draw alternately on neuvo tango, faux Heavy Metal and Santo & Johnnys Sleepwalk. Norton supplies both a backbeat and ringing chimes, while the slinky theme and variations revolve from Ratliffs airy muted cornet and rave-up guitar distortions. On the first of four versions of the main theme Barcelona, Attias honks out stentorian baritone saxophone slurs, Ratliff contributes plunger trombone lines and the fiddler moves from waggling minor chord Yiddishkite suggestions to lovely, legato jetes.
Members of the ensemble are versatile enough -- and the compositional impulse so strong -- that a piece like Horsey can follow Barcelona (duo) without major disconnect. This is despite the fact that the later is a straightahead ancien tango --if such a term exists -- played full-force by Giordano, who has backed folks like saxist James Carter, plus Hebert, ponticello -- swinging and ethnically satisfying at the same time. The former is a haunting, near modern classical piece that voices Ratliffs accordion with arco bass, sul tasto violin and low-pitched bass clarinet from Andy Biskin. It moves at a slow pace without dragging
The only puzzle is the need for pre-programmed guitar and drum beats from Chris Kelly that face off with Ratliffs cornet and electric piano on BCN. With the jungle beat patterns off-putting and very repetitive, the fit is with the piano and definitely not with the mutating chromatic romantic brass tones. Perhaps the result makes more sense if you see the film.
No matter, everywhere else BARCELONA IN 48 HOURS doesnt need visuals to be appreciated as a memorable creation.
Track Listing: 1. Barcelona (band version) 2. BCN^ 3. Glass* 4. Barcelona(duo) 5. Horsey+ 6. Mies 7. Barcelona (dreaming) 8. Estació de Frabnça+ 9. Night Dance 10. Barcelona (solo) 11. Sintuba
Personnel: Edward Ratliff (cornet, trombone, accordion+, celeste* and Fender Rhodes^); Michaël Attias (alto and baritone saxophones); Andy Biskin (bass clarinet); Doug Wieselman (guitar); Seido Salifoski (dumbek); Sam Bardfeld (violin); Charlie Giordano (accordion); John Hebert (bass); Kevin Norton (drums); Chris Kelly (programming)
January 10, 2005
Creative Orchestra Music, Chicago 2001
New World # 80572-2
WALTER THOMPSON ORCHESTRA
Pexo - A Soundpainting Symphony
Creating structures for ensembles of improvising musicians and voices is the thread that unites these two sessions. Scott Rosenberg and Walter Thompson have formulated different paths to creation -- the former by mixing improv and written material, the later by utilizing a composing-conducting system of gestured signals.
Although both methods are praiseworthy, neither disc is 100 per cent satisfying. Thats because application of the theory sometimes breaks down in the spontaneously recorded practice.
On the up side the music on these discs demonstrates that each man has already met a formidable challenge. Rosenberg, who usually plays saxophone with experimenters like Anthony Braxton, has created, adapted and conducts five longish compositions for an ad hoc mixed orchestra of 26 of Chicagos top musicians plus a couple of West Coast ringers. PEXO, on the other hand, is the newest example of what Thompson, a woodwinds player and educator, who has taught the concept in the United States and Europe, calls soundpainting. The CD is the aural souvenir of how Thompsons orchestra, which he founded in 1984, and includes instrumentalists, dancers, actors and visual artists, improvises material across all media as directed by Thompson. Counting actors, he manages to express the breadth of his vocabulary and vision with only 16 performers here.
Paradoxically, however, it may be the thespian vocal theatricality that retards full realization of his symphonic aspirations. Meanwhile, in his CDs title -- CREATIVE ORCHESTRA MUSIC CHICAGO (COMC) 2001 -- not to mention some of the music here, Rosenberg proclaims the major influence from his former teacher Braxtons Ghost Trance Music (GTM), as well as other composers like Morton Feldman and Muhal Richard Abrams. Yet if COMC takes its inspiration from Braxton, PEXO appears to take it from Bob Barker. No musician, Bob Barker has been host of The Price Is Right, the longest running and highest rated daytime game show in television history for more than 30 years.
PEXOs nearly 19-minute, longest composition is named for Barker and while the entire album is described as an abstracted sound version of a visit to a TV studio. However, the need for dramatic color and expression for voices seems to have overloaded the game show aspect -- thus Bob Barker. With the mumbled words from the actors suggesting that an after-the-fact written libretto may have been a good idea, the few, rather banal, phrases that peep though the miasmic instrumental sound include keep watching for your number, Peggy has won a love seat and I cant believe I lost.
At other points the actors make onomatopoeia out of Barkers name and certain syllables, vying for aural space with tuba bottom blasts, massed horn ejaculations and baroque trumpet flourishes. Too often, though, the instrumental passages merely seem to comment on the words rather than creating their own POV. Even a crackling, pseudo Bird-like alto runs and a bass thump reminiscent of Oscar Pettiford dont make strong enough impressions. Pumping horn lines and rock music-like percussion plops dont seem like much when theyre coupled with near-hysterical laughter. Plus a more original thought would have been to accompany the cry of no score with something other than weepy violins.
Perhaps visuals allow the performers work to seem less like speechifying. However on disc, whenever with the thematic material is transmitted through a particularly fluid instrumental passage, the disjoined stops and starts in the performance appear to reflect actorly hesitation rather than pure improv. Only a few times does Thompsons theory take root, as when a plunger trumpet growl amplify the emotions expressed by an actor bubbling out his lines.
Even the end track, Two Talk Show Hosts doesnt seem to offer enough verbal articulation to reflect the title. A singular male voice appears to be too sinister for the affable host role. Meanwhile the false hilarity of laugher in varied cadenzas, tempos and pitches vying for space with speedy, dissonant slides, glissandos and cadenzas from the horns doesnt so much suggest network TV as much as a production midway between word play and The Living Theater.
On COMC meanwhile, Rosenbergs most serious misstep comes with Toys, which is described as reflecting playful and creative anarchy, with the band split into five groups playing with different toys. Written, rather than improvised, the ghost of Braxtons GTM hovers over the entire performance, perhaps understandably since Rosenberg and a couple of the other musicians had recorded a GTM piece with the maestro two months previously. Despite its more than 18½-minute length Toys never really comes into aural focus, with everything from the repetitive reed accompaniment and its detour into march time in one section defeating the concept.
Overly thematic, and again with no improvisation, Wash is unconsciously akin to Bob Graettingers City of Glass score for Stan Kenton orchestra. For all of its nine- plus minutes the piece merely surges along in torrents of thick timbres
then just ends.
Far more impressive are Rosenbergs other -- coincidentally newer -- compositions. Forgetting Song takes full advantage of the wordless vocalizing of Carol Genetti, an idiom mixer who has performed with composer Pauline Oliveros and drummer Michael Zerang among many others. Like Kate Hammond-Vaughan with Vancouvers NOW Orchestra and unlike the actors on PEXO, Genetti fits ball-and-socket into the improvisations.
Singing expositions that include nonsense natterings, keening falsetto melisma and held notes that dip into a false basso range, she matches the billows, flutters and swells of the band members output. Most notable instrumentally are the equestrian clip clops from what appear to be bongos and congas played by a drum machine, showcased along with vibraharp pressure by the three percussionists. With a modulated mid-section of guitars, basses and the percussionists, the tune builds to a final denouement of light plunger brass and mellifluent reeds.
The other two compositions are thicker, but dense in a commendable fashion. They allow the pile up of strings, bass, reeds and percussion to deceptively augment the sound until they fracture the orchestral building blocks into organized chaos. However, these patterns of widely spaced intervals and short, colored interjections are so solid, that individual contributions are submerged into the whole, much as they are on PEXO.
Of course with 26 players on hand, the odd synthesizer oscillations from Jim Baker, reverb feedback from guitarists John Shiurba and Nathaniel Braddock and oboe punctuation from Kyle Bruckmann stands out. Still if any are extended techniques like flutter tonguing are put into play, its usually part of a group effort.
Still learning, Rosenberg, born in 1972 shows with CREATIVE ORCHESTRA MUSIC CHICAGO (COMC) 2001 that hes well on his way to write memorable compositions. Hes still working his way through apprentice missteps.
Thompson, with a longer résumé, has compared his concept of soundpainting to flipping through 100 TV channels at random and creating meaningful patterns from the musical, textural, and visual associations. As good as some sections of PEXO are, its evident that a DVD multi-media presentation of his orchestra would be far more satisfying than this disc.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Creative: 1. Tehr 2. Wash 3. 7x with Sttm 4. Forgetting Song 5. Toys
Personnel: Creative: Todd Margasak, Nathaniel Walcott (trumpets); Jeb Bishop, Nick Broste (trombones); Megan Tiedt (tuba); Lisa Goethe-McGinn (flute); Kyle Bruckmann (oboe); Jesse Gilbert, Paul Hartsaw, Laurie Lee Moses, Todd Munnik Matt Bauder, Aram Shelton (saxophones and clarinets); Jen Clare Paulson (viola); Chris Hoffman, Drew Morgan (cellos); John Shiurba, Nathaniel Braddock (guitars); Jim Baker (piano and synthesizer); Kyle Hernandez, Elizabeth Kennedy, Jason Roebke (basses) Jerome Bryerton, Steve Butters and Tim Daisy (percussion); Carol Genetti (vocals); Scott Rosenberg (conductor)
Track Listing: Pexo: 1. Entrance 2. Prepare 3. Get Ready 4. Bob Barker 5. The Crowd 6. Two Talk Show Hosts
Personnel: Pexo: Rob Henke (trumpet); Sarah Weaver (trombone); Christopher Washburne (trombone, tuba); Jody Espina (alto saxophone); Michaël Attias (alto and baritone saxophones); Julie Ferrara (oboe and English horn); Rolf Sturm (guitar and synthesizer); Todd Reynolds (violin and conductor); Gil Selinger (cello); Jim Whitney (bass); Steve Rust (bass and electric bass); Andrea Pryor and Greg Stare (percussion); Leese Walker, Michael David Gordon, Christian Brandjes (actors); Walter Thompson (conductor)
April 5, 2004