AMN Reviews: American Modern Ensemble – Mavericks [AMR 1041]

downloadMavericks is a compilation of (mostly) recent work by eight American composers. Originally presented in the context of a series of concerts in New York in 2007, the ten works here have in some cases been revised and re-recorded since then, though two—Robert Dick’s Sliding Life Blues and Stuart Dempster’s Matthew, Can You Sperry Me Again?—appear here as they were recorded at one of the concerts.

The pieces largely date from 2000 and after, with the exception of Michael Lowenstern’s 1993 Spasm for bass clarinet and electronics, Sean McClowry’s April’94 for double bass and electronics (1994), and the far outlier of John Eaton’s Microtonal Fantasy of 1965, a work for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart, to be played simultaneously by one performer. All were selected as showcases for the expanded possibilities open to solo performers on voice and on string, percussion and wind instruments. Accordingly, the ten performances make good use of extended technique, electronic manipulation of acoustic sounds, improvisation, and/or unconventional tunings and notation.

Fully half of the performances include an electronic component, whether in the guise of pre-recorded sound or live processing. For example, Spasm pairs live bass clarinet with pre-recorded sounds derived from the instrument that have been chopped and channeled into beats and other elements of rock and funk. April ’94 runs McClowry’s detuned double bass through loops and other signal processing; this moving work, a program piece written as a kind of elegy to the victims of the Rwandan war of 1994 succeeds, even in the absence of knowledge of its inspiration, as a purely musical piece suffused by a dark, if unconventional, lyricism. William O. Smith’s Sumi-E for clarinet and live computer processing (2000) methodically explores several techniques for, or specific parts of, the clarinet using a contemporary reimagining of the classical exposition-and-variations structure.

The purely acoustic pieces also emphasize the richness of the technical means available to contemporary performers. Komodo (2004) and Piranha (2007), composed and performed by American Modern Ensemble music director Robert Paterson, explore in depth the geography of the five-octave marimba as played with six mallets. Each piece is centered on one end of the instrument’s pitch range, laying bare the harmonic subtleties inherent in the resonances of closely spaced, overlapping tones.

Perhaps the most intriguing concept belongs to Dempster’s performance for unaccompanied trombone. The mostly improvised piece starts from a very simple verbal score consisting of a single sentence invoking the memory of the late Bay Area double bassist Matthew Sperry, who is called down as a kind of unseen performance partner. During his lifetime, Sperry was an inspiration to many improvisers, bassists and non-bassists alike; through Dempster’s work he continues to be. Appropriately, Dempster initially uses the trombone to set up a simulacrum of the sound of a double bass. Spinning a line of legato gravity, he simulates a mid- to low-register arco melody; chords or multiphonics recall the double stops of the string instrument. With the second half of the performance, Dempster creates sounds with an uncanny vocal quality: clearly pronounced vowels, humming, and so on. His compelling performance provides a fitting close to this strong set of new music.


Daniel Barbiero

Halim El Dabh as the Originator of Musique Concrete

Image of a Sony TC-630, a reel-to-reel recorde...

Source: Ibraaz, with an article positing that the first example of Musique Concrete came from Egyptian Halim El Dabh rather than Pierre Schaeffer.

The origins of musique concrète – electroacoustic music composed of recorded sound – are attributed to Pierre Schaeffer, who coined the term in 1948. At the time, Schaeffer and his associates were working at the Studio d’Essai (Experimental Studio) in Paris. They were exploring ways in which recording technology removed the ties of composition with traditional performance modes, and how phonology brought pre-recorded sounds from the outside world into the recording studio. In his 1948/9 journal, published as the collection of essays À la recherche d’une musique concrète in 1952, Schaeffer described the sounds and the way he imagined working with them as a ‘symphony of noises’. He collected sounds from gongs, bike horns, car horns and other industrial and everyday ambience, which he stored at the radio station for use during the reading of plays.

Schaeffer’s 1948 composition, Cinq Etudes des Bruits, which features cut up sounds recordings from trains, canal boats, coughing, string and other mundane noises, is widely regarded as the first piece of musique concrète. Yet, four years before Schaeffer created Cinq Etudes des Bruits, an Egyptian student in Cairo composed one of the first known pieces of electronic tape music using a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Expressions of Zaar (Ta’abir al-Zaar) by Halim El Dabh premiered in an art gallery in Cairo 1944; among the first known work ever composed by electronic means, and also the first intended for electronic presentation. Based on recordings of women chanting at an Egyptian healing ceremony, a sound perhaps as prevalent in 1940 Cairo as canal boats were in Schaeffer’s Paris at the time, Expressions of Zaar played out on a magnetic tape recorder (a shorter composition of the work became known as Wire Recorder Piece, 1994). The resulting sound, rather than a premonition of Fluxus montages of the machinery of industry and travel as Schaeffer’s had been, was the melded overtones of combined female voices conducting a zaar healing or exorcism, a ceremony common to parts of West Asia and North Africa.

All About Jazz Reviews

Craig Taborn (Prezens, at the Vortex (London) ...

Source: Jazz Reviews

Rich Halley 4
Eleven (Pine Eagle Records)

Ches Smith With Craig Taborn And Mat Maneri
The Bell (ECM Records)

Steve Swell
Kanreki: Reflection & Renewal (Not Two Records)

Aggressive Hippies (Moonjune Records)

Luís Lopes/Jean-Luc Guionnet
Live At Culturgest (Clean Feed Records)

The Peeled Eye
The Peeled Eye (Shameless)

Giovanni Di Domenico / Peter Jacquemyn / Chris Corsano
A Little Bit Off The Top (NoBusiness Records)

The Necks
Vertigo (Northern Spy Records)

A Celebration of Boulez in NY Reviewed

Pierre Boulez in 2004

Source: The New York Times.

Organized at short notice after the death of Pierre Boulez on Tuesday, “Au Revoir, Pierre,” a tribute concert on Saturday at Le Poisson Rouge, showed off the qualities long associated with Mr. Boulez and his music: seriousness, precision, experimentation.

But most of all, the evening, which raised money for the organization New Music USA, exuded the hopefulness and joyfulness, even playfulness, of Mr. Boulez’s vision. Yes, his explorations of sound and instrumentation were like controlled scientific studies. But they were also like games.

Improvising Beings New Releases

Source: Improvising Beings.

François Tusques, Itaru Oki, Claude Parle, Isabel Juanpera, Le Chant Du Jubjub

François Tusques’ Ars Poetica, finally! Tusques’ ground-breaking Free Jazz was released half a century ago. His music has been in constant evolution ever since, creating a fascinating and varied landscape. Le Chant Du Jubjub (The Song Of The Jubjub) is a clever re-invention of Lewis Carroll’s poems: while hunting the proverbial Snark, Tusques and his aids, Isabel Juanpera on narration (and lead vocals on the hauntingly beautiful Ballade Des Parfums), Itaru Oki (trumpet, flugelhorn, flutes) and Claude Parle (accordion) will tell you all that you know (and mostly, everything that you don’t) about creation. A strong offering from François Tusques, revisiting old favorite themes from Dazibao and Topolitologie as well as featuring a rare venture into total improv.

Keiko Higuchi, Louis Inage, Masa Kawaguchi, Tatsuya Nakatani, Between Dream And Haze

Two years after Awai (w/ Yasumune Morishige), a year after the acclaimed Ephemeral As Petals on Utech, Keiko Higuchi delivers another strong collection of the standards you’ve never heard, or maybe as you’ve never heard them… Between Dream And Haze oozes electric, infectious, venimous energy, between darkness and velvet. A stellar cast surrounds here, Tatsuya Nakatani on drums and percussion, the fierce ambassador of Japanese improvisation who needs no introduction, Masami Kawaguchi on guitars, a stalwart of the Tokyo underground since the 1990s (check his numerous appearances on PSF Records, and more recently his New Rock Syndicate; if you think Acid Mothers Temple is all you need to know about psychedelic garage rock this side of the Pacific, you’re wrong!), and Louis Inage, majestic on electric bass (Majutsu No Niwa and Yakochu).

Other Matter (Michel Kristof and Julien Palomo), #1 (Probes)

Other Matter (Michel Kristof and Julien Palomo), #1 (Probes)
Other Matter’s latest effort is a digital album. Not that Improvising Beings suddenly gives up on physical recordings, but the sheer length of the work, over 10 hours of music, fits the new format perfectly. This is an album to question the listener’s relationship to music – the way he hears it, what place it really takes in his daily existence. Will you take the trip?

Tomeka Reid Quartet in Philadelphia Reviewed


With her quietly mad improvisations and dedication to lilting melody, Tomeka Reid proves the ferociously innovative female jazz cellist doesn’t stop with Esperanza Spalding. As part of Chicago’s disparate African American avant-garde music scene, Reid played cello for saxophone gods Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell before turning attentions to her debut album as a leader, the newly released Tomeka Reid Quartet.

Upcoming Events in St. Louis

Source: New Music Circle.

Susan Alcorn / Frank Rosaly
Friday, January 22, 2016, Concert 8:00 PM, doors 7:00 PM
at Joe’s Cafe, 6014 Kingsbury Ave., 63122 (map)
Susan Alcorn — pedal steel guitar, Frank Rosaly — drums

Susan Alcorn is a Baltimore based composer and instrumentalist who has received international recognition as an innovator of the pedal steel guitar. Alcorn elicits an expansive range of sounds from her instrument, from accessible country glissandos to Theremin like science fiction “noir” effects. The warm and shimmering earnestness of her instrument is used to full effect in her arrangements, probing the depths and textures of the songs. The UK Guardian describes her music as “beautiful, glassy and liquid, however far she strays from pulse and conventional harmony.”

Drummer Frank Rosaly has lived in Chicago since 2001 and has become an integral part of that city’s musical fabric, playing in improvised and experimental ensembles as well lending his skills to rock and indie groups. This flexibility as a musician lends particularly well to his improvised sets, where possibly he shines brightest.

Spektral Quartet
Co-sponsored by The Department of Music at Washington University in St. Louis
Saturday, March 5, 2016, 8:00 PM concert, 7:00 pm doors
at The 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity Ave, 63130

Founded in 2010, the Spektral Quartet is widely regarded as one of Chicago’s most charismatic and forward-thinking chamber ensembles. The group’s creative approach to concert format, often shifting the role of audience member from spectator to participant, has earned it a loyal following within and beyond Chicago’s city limits.

The Necks
Presented by New Music Circle and KDHX
March 25 or 26, 2016 (exact date TBA), 8:00 PM concert, 7:00 PM doors
at The Stage at KDHX, 3524 Washington Ave. 63103

Unclassifiable, The Necks stand out over all the other groups Australia has produced. Neither jazz nor rock, this stylistically deceptive trio has maintained a singularly high standard throughout its career.

They will usually begin a set by playing a basic melodic/rhythmic figure and then developing it for up to an hour, gradually introducing microscopic changes and variations. Some critics have compared them to Krautrock groups (German genre of the late 1960s) like Can and Faust while others find similarities to the works of minimalist composers such as La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, or even Philip Glass.

Tyshawn Sorey’s Alloy Trio
Presented by New Music Circle and KDHX
Saturday, April 16, 2016, 8:00 PM concert, 7:00 PM doors
at The Stage at KDHX, 3524 Washington Ave. 63103
Tyshawn Sorey — drums, Corey Smythe — piano, Chris Tordini — bass

Widely considered one of the most talented and influential experimental jazz musicians of his generation, Tyshawn Sorey is a percussionist and composer whose innovative work defies all categories.

Tyshawn Sorey’s latest project, Alloy Trio, features original compositions with Corey Smythe on piano and Christopher Tordini on upright bass. The pieces focus on both space and texture, allowing for the reiteration of notes, patterns and silences. In live settings these pieces are uniquely unrepeatable and places the listener in the moment, alongside the musicians.