James Ilgenfritz: Compositions (Braxton) 2011 [Infrequent Seams IS1001]
Double bassist James Ilgenfritz’s new CD provides an intriguing twist on the orchestral reduction. Ordinarily a matter of adapting music for larger ensembles to the piano, here Ilgenfritz takes Anthony Braxton’s compositions and reduces them to the double bass alone. It’s an ambitious undertaking with fittingly audacious results.
The challenge Ilgenfritz sets himself is to take Braxton’s multifaceted works for ensemble and to render them on a single instrument, all the while retaining their salient properties. Ilgenfritz’s approach is to combine segments of multiple compositions into any given performance. These pieces include Braxton’s Language Music and Ghost Trance Music materials, as well as two trumpet cadenzas. The works chosen cover a diverse range of styles and notations, ranging from the fully-scored to those suggestive of melodic contours and rhythmic pulses. The Language Music approach– in which sound elements and techniques function as phonemes to be combined in various ways—seems to encapsulate much of what’s heard here. Within its parameters the performer is allowed a good amount of discretion, which Ilgenfritz makes good use of.
The individual tracks, all of which are of substantial length, range from the march rhythms that open the CD to the angular pulses and timbral discontinuities that mirror some of Braxton’s solo work on alto saxophone, and through to passages that seem inspired by twelve-tone composition. The playing is clear throughout, with the frequent shifts of direction handled deftly.
As important as the compositions are, the double bass itself is the key to this recording. The material facts of how the instrument creates sound provide the vocabulary for the sound world here and indeed leave an essential imprint on the music. Thus the kaleidoscopic experience Ilgenfritz wishes to create is as much driven by the way the instrument creates sound as by the compositions. Because of the focus on materiality of the bass, sound color is as important as harmonic or tonal content. In the development of these performances, Ilgenfritz uses expansive bowing techniques to bring out the full range of the bass’s capacity to generate rich overtones and to create sometimes abrupt changes of color. Some of these techniques include the generous use of harmonics and sul ponticello bowing; overpressured bowing; bowing & plucking simultaneously; and bouncing both the haired and wooden sides of the bow on the strings. Ilgenfritz’s technical exploration is well-served by the pristine recording, which brings out the full range of nuance on offer.
In addition to being a significant engagement of Braxton’s compositional legacy, Compositions (Braxton) 2011 is a considerable achievement of solo instrumentalism and an important demonstration of the possibilities open to the double bass in the early 21st century.
Bester Quartet: Metamorphoses (Tzadik, 2012) ****
Jeff Davis – Leaf House (Fresh Sound Records, 2012) ****
Mikołaj Trzaska, Olie Brice, Mark Sanders – Riverloam Trio (NoBusiness, 2012) **** Joe McPhee – Variations on a Blue Line (Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2012) ****
Joe McPhee – Glasses (Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2012) ****1/2
Ben Holmes – Anvil of The Lord (Skirl Records, 2012) ****
Julia A. Miller – Solo Variations (Pan Y Rosas Discos, 2012) ***½
Atom String Quartet – Places (Kayax, 2012) ***
Way Out Northwest – The White Spot (Relative Pitch, 2012) ****
John Butcher, Guillaume Viltard, Eddie Prévost – All But (Matchless, 2012) ***
John Butcher & Matthew Shipp – At OTO (Fataka, 2012) ***
Sun., November 04, 2012 at 6:30 PM
Jenny Q Chai, piano
w/ music of Satie, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Scarlatti, Stroppa, Cage, Vigeland, Boucourechliev and Chopin
andré boucourechliev arnold schoenberg caal frédéric chopin john cage karlheinz stockhausen marco stroppa nils vigeland scarlatti streaming
Sun., November 11, 2012 at 7:00 PM
Missy Mazzoli: “Song from the Uproar” album release concert
w/ Abigail Fischer , NOW Ensemble , films by Stephen Taylor and special guest Aaron Roche
Chicago-based clarinetist/composer James Falzone will conclude his 2012 performance schedule with two Midwest concerts featuring his extended solo work, Sighs Too Deep For Words. On Thursday, November 29th at 9:00 p.m., he will present the piece at Elastic in Chicago, followed by a fully improvised second set with his Early Music Convention project featuring Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Katherine Young (bassoon), Lou Mollozzi (turntables and electronics), Tim Daisy (marimba and percussion) and Frank Rosaly (percussion and electronics). A few days later, on Sunday, December 2nd at 7:00 p.m., he’ll travel to Milwaukee for a solo performance at Woodland Pattern Book Center‘s Alternating Currents series, which will be preceded by a brief discussion of the work’s literary influences, particularly the writing of Thich Nhat Hanh and Thomas Merton.
Matt Hillier and Jacqueline Kersley reside in Cornwall and have been making ”harmonious” music since 1995, although I was always led to believe it was mostly Hillier. Since 2008, they have been releasing almost exclusively on their own label, Virtual, although I believe it is Kersley who in mainly in charge of that project. Be that as it may, as Ishq, and occasionally Ishvara, Indigo Egg and Elve (along with dozens of contributions to ambient compilations, each one under a different, transitory monicker), its music has maintained an enchanting, optimistic, immersive quality; some feel that ´Orchid´ (2001) is one of the best ambient albums of the new millennium.
Steve Brand of Kansas set up his own label, Pioneer Light Music, to re-release out-of-print material and music originally available through the excellent Relaxed Machinery netlabel. Finding a kindred spirit in Hillier´s “expansiveness and expressiveness of feeling, and his intuitive and spiritual approach to music”, Brand, who boasts an impressive discography himself, contacted Hillier and suggested collaborating. The latter responded by sending him an entire DVD of new material and Brand set to work feng shui´ing it.
For this reissue, Brand has remastered the music and packaged it as two, separate CDRs, each with its own handsome cover, the first containing three tracks over seventy-five minutes, the second a single piece stretching fifty-two minutes. “Spiritual Science” is classic ambient, weightless like outer space and undersea, beatless except for a catchy, blotchy rhythm running through “Flame of Nuit” on the first disc. Rather than challenge it invites and engulfs. It is definitely harmonious, even idealizing, but it is layered with much more craft than any New Age dross, regardless of the meditation fountain and chirping cricket on “Nature is Sung”. Escape is one of the many functions of ambient music, as J.R.R. Tolkien has said of fantasy literature, and “Spiritual Science” is a sweet retreat.