The timbrel, melodic and sonorous potentials sleeping in the aggregation of guitar and piano has had few thorough investigations and these tend to bring out the best in the participants. The 70's Jazz Rock Boomer Bombast experiments with Jan Hammer or Pat Metheny were generally a saccharine toxin to my ears although the latter's versions became perfect back ground music to local info feeds on the Weather Channel and probably landed him some fat residuals.
The Magellan of this particular ensemble exploration would surely be Mr. Joe Morris , who has been thinking about guitar and piano issues since his earliest salad days alongside Lowell Davidson. It is gratifying to see other capable innovators seek to sail these seas.
These people have astonishing ears which surely makes the solid foundation for the architecture of improvisations gathered on this one low key disc. They have also put profound effort into absorbing the wealth of the past several decades that innovators have brought to the idiom. They wholeheartedly endorse the discoveries of their older predecessors and fully engage themselves in extending the treasure hunt.The ensemble as comprised already has a timeless feel to it.
An aspect of the collective improvisation aesthetic is this interesting churning of dueling dual antiphonies. For example, a piece might find a close doubling interaction between Kevin and Andy contrasted by another between Todd and Tatsuya. These sub unit exchanges shift deftly and organically with very innovative uses of timbrel elements as interaction prompts.
A funny aspect is the contrast between the somewhat stark titles from the worlds of mathematical and systems abstractions with the totally organic interaction present in each of these pieces. I have found over time that the best way I can find to describe these dense, intensive expressions is to borrow metaphors from life sciences and nature writers.
A typical iconoclast improvising ensemble could be heard as a sonic ecotone, a margin meeting point. Event and species densities increase at margins like a Cardinal on a Striped Maple alongside a mountain stream and trail clearing. Move to a pure stand of striped maple or a wide river or an open expanse and the density diminishes. Life likes the edges of things and not the middle of them.
My crutch, thus, is making the description model for these approaches to music in a way that shares characteristics with describing natural or urban activity convergences and how thhe parts complete the moment, the whole.
Kevin Frenette , Guitar, favors an unadorned tone for his guitar and generally avoids electronic crutches. He is making inroads and innovations in all of the more exciting areas of guitaristics, intervallic melody improvisation, really subtle timbrel interactions and discoveries, majestic sonic movements comprised of tiny staccato tone washes, deft shifts to frequency sounding to contrast other ensemble events and seeming telepathy.
Andy McWain , Piano, is another innovator of international stature who maintains a local focus near New Bedford. He is one of a generation of pianists under 50 who have brought unusual wealth to the instrument at a time of material impoverishment for the idiom. Matthew Shipp , Steve Lantner , Pandelis Karayorgis and Eric Zinman each have poured their considerable imaginations and capabilities through keyboards into the idiom's common wealth. He has also done his part as a concert presenter for the Audible Think series in New Bedford.
Todd Keating Bass, is a skilled practitioner of subtlety with a well equipped array of capabilities from a fluttered flow of melodic pluckiness to bow work that carries on an interesting banter with the metal bow parallels of the drummer. He fully rises to the occasion of interval melody asymmetry and a lexicon of percussive bass inventions.
Tatsuya Nakatani , Percussion. A particularly striking Nakatani innovation is an upending of drum kit relations where the epicenter is occupied by the metal and the periphery belongs to the wood. This works astonishingly well with the ensemble line up. Mr Nakatani is a wealth of subtleties. He also makes bowed metal work a core element of this sound in the way kick drum pumping is a core element of wood based drumming.
( Andy McWain)
Mr Frenette does a micro exposition of a melody figure before Mr McWain joins in an interesting zig zag contrast of rising and falling figures in a diagonal lattice work. Mr Keating does a compelling flutter lope with his bass joining Mr Nakatani initially in framing the melodic elements rising from guitar and piano.
2. Network Theory.
This one is a good example of the shifts in ensemble gravity and recombination over time, (although it is an element of every piece). Lets see if I can provide a reasonable reflection of these sequences without it coming out like an Abbot and Costello 'who's on first shtick'.
Mr McWain and Mr Frenette lead off in interweaving the full capabilities of the fretted guitar and piano linearity. Mr Keating and Nakatani form a contrasting sonic framework with lots of bowing on bass and metal. Then the gravity shifts to a Frenette and Nakatani center poised by and juxtaposed against an interlocking McWain and Keating. And this just as readily darts in and out of sudden Frenette and Keating alliances. Jeeze, I'm dizzy and I bet it's wrong anyway but you get the idea...right?
3. Logic Synthesis.
A notable facet of this piece would be the Frenette and Nakatani sonic frequency interplay with a contrast from McWain and Keating weighted to melodic washes of interval intricacies.
4. Correlation Coefficient.
Mr. Nakatani comes a bit closer to kit usage conventions here and one can hear a bit more of the wood side.He also evokes the 'little instruments of AACM yore through basic kit use in new applications. There is a subtly rhapsodic sense if that doesn't seem like an oxymoron like an understated Yankee Rhapsody with otherworldly austerity in the drum kit.
The use of long tone frequency movement and tremolo loop counterpoint are among Mr Frenettes striking contributions to this one. There is much understatement and whole other applications of subtlety. Mr. McWain occupies some compelling real estate in the mid section full of flight and shuddering clusters.
6. Combinatorial Mathematics.
We have a full ensemble entry here. The sonic fabric here is woven of bowing from Mr Keating and Mr Nakatani as Mr Frenette and Mr McWain embroider melodic elements. Mr Frenette then lends himself to a solo that might be a modern echo to a vamp with astute block clusters as Mr. McWains punctuations. Mr Keating revs up dense asymmetric bass flights and then it all subsides into reflective minimalism where timbre interweaves become a focus.
7. Merger Doctrine.
Inside piano sounds make up part of Mr McWain's opening as Mr Frenette focuses on melodic development. The piece is wrapped in a summer thunderstorm rumble with a calm before storm opening solo from Mr Frenette stating a melody figure before Mr. McWain arrives with a contrapuntal opening of some precision before heading for a kitchen sink toss conclusion punctuated by Frenette long tones that continue to the end.
Mr. Keating holds up the demanding flutter rumble of distant thunder roll and Mr. Nakatani leads the way home with a lightening bolt run of percussive surprises enveloped in sly silences to enhance a sense of startle.
All in all, Connections is one of the more compelling examples of the efforts made here to participate in this demanding idiom at a very high level and it is available at CD Baby . Mr Frenette wil be at the Outpost on Saturday March 21st at 8pm.