AMN Reviews: Jack Wright and Ben Wright – As if anything could be the same

Jack Wright and Ben Wright: As if anything could be the same [RPR1017]

Saxophonist Jack Wright has been a force in free improvisation since devoting himself full-time to that discipline in 1979. During those thirty-five years he has taken an expansive view of what improvisation can be, and what kind of sound world a saxophone can create. His earlier efforts arose as a natural response to and continuation of the expressionistic free jazz of the 1960s, but a collaboration with Bhob Rainey in the late 1990s led him to reduce the volume and density of his sound, though not, paradoxically, the passion. Rather than abandoning one style for another, he has conserved and retained the sounds of all of his musical incarnations, with the result that he has been able to fashion a broad sonic vocabulary to draw on in any number of different improvisational contexts. He has also devoted himself to developing the music by reaching out to listeners, potential listeners, and fellow musicians through his frequent performances at venues of all sizes throughout the world.  In this CD, a collaboration with his son Ben on double bass, his ecumenical approach to improvisation is on full display.

The disc opens with an energetic, texture-heavy statement on the bass, which is quickly joined by staccato notes from the soprano saxophone. The piece is full but at the same time is full of space. Here as in the other pieces the improvisation doesn’t follow a narrative arc but instead has more of the kind of color-based dynamic that painter Hans Hofmann described as “push-pull”: layered timbres creating a sense of sonic depth and movement. This can be heard to full advantage in Be, which overlaps squealing, popping and grunting sounds from the saxophone and struck strings, overpressure-bowing and brightly articulated tremolo from the bass. But despite the preponderance of color as a shaping element, a trace of expressionism can be found running throughout all five tracks as a kind of subterranean stream irrigating and feeding the growth above ground. But at times it comes to the fore, as in the plangent alto and overtone-laden bowed bass on the second track, or the moaning of both horn and bass at the beginning of The Same. Conversely, the kind of reductivist sound shaping that Wright has become known for is by no means absent from the disc. Nearly all the selections feature it to some extent, though it dominates the closing track.

What is notable about the Wrights’ approach to sound is the way it makes audible the physical confrontation of player and instrument. In fact, much of this is music that directly signals its origin in the body. The physicality of sound production—for example the inhalation and exhalation of the breath, the undertow of voice and the sonic signature of the lips which are so prominent in Could—makes itself felt at various points throughout the set.

This is a fine recording and comes very highly recommended.

Eighth Blackbird’s Still in Motion at New York’s Kitchen this Week

From The Kitchen:

eighth blackbird: Still in Motion

Bryce Dessner: Murder Ballades Suite (2013)
Tom Johnson: Counting Duets (1982)
György Ligeti: Études arr. sextet (1985-2001)
Nico Muhly: Doublespeak (2011) NEW YORK PREMIERE
Steve Mackey: Suite: Slide (2012) NEW YORK PREMIERE
Brett Dean: Sextet: Old Kings in Exile (2010) NEW YORK PREMIERE

eighth blackbird combines the virtuosity of a string quartet with the energy of a storefront theater company. This three-time Grammy-winning “super-ensemble” brings a very special program to The Kitchen, full to the brim with New York premieres. If Tom Johnson’s “Counting Duets” is Sesame Street on acid, then new arrangements of Ligeti’s Études are Chopin Gone Wild. Steve Mackey provides a moving portrait of loneliness and delusion in his Grammy-winning “Slide”, while Australian composer Brett Dean fills “Old Kings in Exile” with hallucinatory dreams and threatening night-terrors. Brand new music by two indie darlings rounds out the bill. The National’s guitarist Bryce Dessner delves into the dark and dangerous caverns of early American murder ballads, while Nico Muhly’s “Doublespeak” buzzes with quicksilver brilliance.


Free Jazz Blog Reviews

From Free Jazz:

David Binney
Cover of David Binney

The Necks: Open (Northern Spy, 2013) ***½
Great Waitress – Flock (Creative Sources, 2013) ****
Howard Riley: Live with Repertoire (NoBusiness, 2013) ****
YAPP – Symbolic Heads (No Business, 2013)***½
Alex Weiss – Fighter Planes & Praying Mantis (OutNow, 2013) ****
Denman Maroney & Hans Tammen – Arson (OutNow, 2013) ***½
Yoni Kretzmer / 66 Boxes – Graceless (OutNow, 2013) ****½
Sonny Simmons, Delphine Latil & Thomas Bellier – Beyond The Planets (Improvising Beings, 2013) ****
Chris Potter – The Sirens (ECM, 2013) ****
David Binney – Lifted Land (Criss Cross, 2013) ***1/2

Schnittke-Inspired Focus! Conclusion Reviewed


Sofia Gubaidulina
Cover of Sofia Gubaidulina

Many artists have works they disdain later in their careers, pieces created before their mature voice had emerged. For the 82-year-old Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina, her “Fairytale Poem” is one such score. Her work was featured on Friday at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater during the final concert of Juilliard’s Focus! festival, which this year celebrated the 80th anniversary of Alfred Schnittke’s birth, programming his music alongside that of his colleagues Ms. Gubaidulina, Giya Kancheli, Arvo Pärt and Valentin Silvestrov.