AMN Reviews: If, Bwana – E (and sometimes why)

If, Bwana: E (and sometimes why) [pogus 21062-2]

If Bwana
If Bwana (Photo credit: kubia)

This new, fascinating two-disc set from If, Bwana (Al Margolis) could easily have been named for its last track, Diapason, Maybe. Diapason can be defined as either the just octave of Pythagorean tuning, or a great upsurge in harmony. Both definitions come into play throughout this album, which documents a well-conceived and -accomplished virtual collaboration between Margolis and the Trio Scordatura (Elisabeth Smalt, viola d’amore; Bob Gilfrun, keyboard and laptop; and Alfrun Schmid, voice), a Netherlands-based ensemble dedicated to exploring novel harmonic relationships through the use of just intonation or tunings that aren’t based on conventional twelve-pitch equal temperament.

A recurring theme throughout E (and sometimes why) is the layering of long tones into emergent harmonies that shift and swell over time. Because of the tunings and instruments used, the harmonies have a microtonal flavor—they seem to roll, pitch and yaw somewhere in the spaces between equal-tempered harmonies. The Diapason, Maybe, along with the title track and All for Al(frun) exemplify this. Each of the three uses a different voice as a kind of urtext. E (and sometimes why) layers long-bowed tones from the viola d’amore with Schmid’s voice; All for Al(frun) is built up of overdubs of Schmid and electronics; Diapason, Maybe has as its foundation Monique Buzzarté’s trombone drones. On all of these tracks, Margolis’s additive layering of samples produces harmonies that fluctuate between the apparently concordant and discordant, often getting denser as the piece develops. Because of the manner in which the sounds are presented, the listener is likely to become sensitized to the micro-variations in pitch that attend even the seemingly steadiest, long-duration tone. There’s something of a paradox here in that this highly electronic music highlights the tiny inconsistencies that make music human, whether these make themselves apparent through the ebb and flow of breath, barely discernible changes in bow pressure on a string, or a slight wobble in the voice.

A few of the pieces bring out a different side of the sound altogether. The wonderfully titled The Tempest, Fuggit is an ultimately unsettling work centered on Michael Peters’ recitation of Prospero’s lines from Act 1, Scene 2 of The Tempest, punctuated by sampled pizzicato strings and set within a looming, suspenseful electronic drone. Cicada 4AA is a predominantly textural work, while Gilmore’s Girls, augmented by the appearances of Buzzarté, vocalist Lisa Barnard Kelley and Margolis on keyboards, favors more staccato sounds and is in some ways the most overtly microtonal track in the collection.

Horace Silver is Alive

Yesterday we erroneously reported that Horace Silver had passed away. However, according to NPR who spoke with his son, Mr. Silver is alive and well.

When we hear of breaking news, such as the passing of a legendary musician, we try to vet the news with at least 2-3 independent sources before repeating it on these pages. And that’s what we did yesterday – at least that’s what we thought we did. In retrospect, it appears as if some of the sites that we thought were independent had actually sourced their news from one another in some fashion. Not to mention that the social media was buzzing with the false news of Mr. Silver’s passing.

Regardless, I take full responsibility for Avant Music News’ role in perpetuating this mistake, apologize to Mr. Silver, his family, and his fans, and vow to more carefully investigate stories like this in the future before posting them.


Free Jazz Blog Reviews

From Free Jazz:

Forebrace – Bad Folds (Copepod Records, 2013) ****½
The Deciders – We Travel The Airwaves (Jazzland, 2013) ****
Catherine Sikora, Han-earl Park, Francois Grillot – Tracks in the Dirt(Clockwork Mercury Press, 2013) ****
Open Graves – Somewhere Beyond Or Behind (Prefecture, 2013) ****
Common Objects – Live In Morden Tower (Mikroton, 2013) ****½
RED Trio – Rebento (NoBusiness, 2013) ****
Alvin Curran – Shofar Rags (Tzadik, 2013) ****½

This Week at the ISSUE Project Room

From the ISSUE Project Room:

Yarn/Wire/Currents, a new and ongoing collaboration of ISSUE and the acclaimed piano and percussion quartet Yarn/Wire, opens with the premiere of newly commissioned works for the ensemble by Berlin-based composers Marianthi Papalexandri Alexandri and Thomas Meadowcroft. Combining the ensemble’s unique instrumentation with an assemblage of acoustic, modified, electronic, and handmade instruments, the series explores intersections of live performance, installation, technology, and music theater.

FRI, DECEMBER 20, 2013 – 8:00PM
MATA Interval 7.1
MATA’s Interval series returns to ISSUE, tonight co-curated by composer Ray Evanoff and pianist Mabel Kwan, presents a concert of adventurous solo works exploring the keyboardist’s tactile engagement with a wide range of instruments and compositions, negotiating the quirks, challenges, and limitations of each. With works by emerging composers Eliza Brown, Aaron Cassidy, Ray Evanoff, Evan Johnson, Stefan Prins, and Ramteen Sazegari. The performance marks Chicago-based pianist Mabel Kwan’s NYC recital debut.

Coming Soon:

Cary Loren and Thomas Carey: The Legend of Mothman & Spookhaus Apokalypse!

SAT, JANUARY 11 – 7:00PM
Benefit for BOMB Magazine:
Grubbs / Yeh / Keszler trio, Jules Gimbrone, Ben Lerner & Amy Sillman


Dave Douglas interviews John Zorn, Part 2

Concert of "Masada": Joey Baron (dr)...


From Greenleaf Music:


Part 2 of Dave Douglas’ sit down with John Zorn recorded on September 12th, 2013 at WNYU Studios. John talks about finding the language of the alto saxophone in the 70′s through an obsessive practice method, his approach to writing for recent pieces that pair through-composed elements with improvisers, and the leadership strategies of Gen. George S. Patton.


Ingrid Laubrock Quintet at Cornelia Street Cafe 13 Dec 2013 Reviewed

Ingrid Laubrock
Ingrid Laubrock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


From Jazz Right Now:


Fearless is the first word that comes to mind when I think about Ingrid Laubrock‘s music. Also, intrepid. Bold. Daring. Decisive. The bandleader remarked after the performance, “there’s nothing like performing new music with people who are up for taking risks … and these guys are not timid.” The band, which consists of Tim Berne (alto), Ben Gerstein (trombone), Dan Peck (tuba), and Tom Rainey (drums), explored plenty of new territory. The group grew out of Laubrock’s desire to form a band “with only horns and drums,” to give her recent compositions a voice and to experiment with texture