All sorts of jazz, free jazz and improv. Never for money, always for love.
Derided in the past as effete or derivative, chamber-style improvising has fascinated musicians since at least the 1920s, both on the jazz (Benny Goodman, Red Norvo) and classical (George Gershwin, Ferde Grofé) sides. However, as this group of CDs demonstrates, with contemporary musicians conversant with both strains of sound, the transitional awkwardness of the past has been replaced by inspired flexibility.
Take for instance, Jean-Marc Foltz’s To The Moon. Although at first it seems as if the ten sparkling miniatures performed by the French clarinettist and his American sidemen pianist Bill Carrothers and cellist Matt Turner, are high-gloss examples of composed music, careful investigation reveals just the opposite. All of these instant compositions were improvised by the trio in one studio session. Inspiration came partially from the tale that inspired Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire plus the wintery moonlight of the studio setting. The result is atmospheric and elegiac in equal doses. Often showcased are the chalumeau textures of Foltz’s bass clarinet which soar and buzz as they contrapuntally meet up with doleful cello slides and strummed metronomic passages from the piano. As improvisers, the three expose a subversive post-modernity as well. Crosses, for instance begins with Carrothers recital-styled harmonies melding with vibrated slides from Turner. Yet while the broken octave-style theme is played by an unperturbed pianist, Foltz constantly interrupts with twittering atonal chirps from the highest regions of his clarinet. The pianist’s reflective thumps which shake his instrument’s inner metal, wood and strings perform a similar function on Knitting Needles. Elsewhere the cello’s quivering vibrations and low frequency organic patterning from the piano are often only there to sooth Foltz’s more intense flutter tonguing.
Singly and together, the CDs confirm that persuasive improvisation can result without being fortissimo or frantic.
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