As a fundamentally monophonic instrument, a horn would seem to offer a limited platform for solo performance. That on the contrary a solo horn can make music of substance and interest is shown by two new releases, one for solo clarinets and one for solo trumpet.
Roma Live Solo Performances, an album of improvisations for solo clarinet, alto clarinet and bass clarinet, is a recent release from the prolific Roman multi-reedist Marco Colonna. Colonna has performed solo frequently since the late 1990s and has consequently released a steadily growing series of solo recordings featuring his work on baritone and sopranino saxophones as well as clarinets. Roma Live, recorded in January of 2019, finds him on what may be his core instruments. As is usual with Colonna’s solo work it’s an exciting set of music; it includes his interpretations of compositions by others as well as his own work. Among the former is the opening track, The Call by the late clarinetist Perry Robinson. Colonna’s realization is bluesy and evocative of the clarinet’s historic role as foundational voice in early jazz. From a much later jazz tradition is Albert Ayler’s Children. Colonna’s warm and wide vibrato, unhurried phrasing and exquisite control of dynamics suffuse his reading with a sublime sense of nostalgia. Of his own compositions Traveller, for bass clarinet, breaks the line across registers in order to imply chord changes and a mobile, contrapuntal bassline. Later on in the piece, Colonna plays bass clarinet and clarinet simultaneously—a signature technique of his—in a hymn-like harmony. Roma Live is a fine collection and includes some of Colonna’s most beautiful playing.
Kris Tiner’s In the Ground and Overhead: 14 Miniatures for Muted Trumpet was composed and recorded in residence at California’s Montalvo Arts Center by the Santa Cruz Mountains, the physical setting of which inspired these short pieces for muted trumpet. The opening and closing improvisations as well as the twelve compositions in between are in effect symphonic poems for a solo instrument; each is made up of brief phrases or motifs that Tiner develops or departs from with a brisk economy of means. Most are of constrained compass or dynamic range—the mute certainly has a role to play there—but some break out into broader expressive territory. Tiner intended the pieces to reflect the beauty of his natural surroundings and the feeling of being alone within them. That he has done quite effectively.