AMN Reviews: Norbert Rodenkirchen / Robbie Lee / James Ilgenfritz – Opalescence [Telegraph Harp]

Opalescence is a recording by an unconventional trio of musicians from highly diverse fields. The instrumentation alone—flutes of various kinds, bass recorder, and sopranino saxophone on the one hand, and double bass on the other—promises intriguing contrasts of range and timbre. It’s a promise made good by the musical backgrounds of the players. Rodenkirchen specializes in flute music from the medieval through Baroque eras, but he also plays what he aptly describes as “experimental archaic music;” Lee, although represented here on contrabass recorder, gemshorn, various flutes and sopranino saxophone, is a wide-ranging multi-instrumentalist known for improvisational experimental rock; double bassist Ilgenfritz, with a background in jazz and contemporary composition, is a well-established figure in New York’s new music/improvised music scene. What unites all three is a fluency in improvisation and a sensitivity to the places their voices take within a unique system of instrumental differences.

Rodenkirchen’s solo pieces Phosphorescence and Iridescence open and close the set respectively; both float with an uncluttered lyricism while understatedly using extended techniques to shore up their essentially song-like lines. Ilgenfritz’s solo on Mille Regretz is a virtuoso turn through a thicket of harmonics and bow articulations that mimic a flute’s range and colors. Rodenkirchen and Lee’s duet tracks take the form of a loose Baroque canon, or exploit fractional differences of tone and tuning. On the trio pieces, Ilgenfritz manipulates the bass’s overtone profile through finger weight and bowings in order to weave it artfully into the texture of Rodenkirchen and Lee’s combined sounds.

Altogether, a fine set of music.

Daniel Barbiero