James Danderfer Group: Accelerated Development (2008)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
For those who thought that the development of modern clarinet repertoire ended with the last release of Eddie Daniels, think again. James Danderfer's Accelerated Development gives notice that new possibilities for the clarinet are on their way again. What's more, with the nine charts that he has written, Danderfer has, also creates a harmonic palette of remarkable sound that lives, breathes, and thrives. This music is delivered by a sextet and creates one of the most unusual tonal canvases.
This is a wholesome sonic expedition where the brassy majesty of baritone saxophonist, Chad Makela and dancing trumpet and flugelhorn of Brad Turner (enjoined by Ryan Ishkanian's tenor saxophone on track two) melds with Danderfer's woody inflections as they are lifted rhythmically by piano, bass and drums into an ever-swelling ocean of sound that roars and swirls, ever onward. But there is always an element of surprisemyriad inner rhythms and harmonies that make subtle or dramatic musical mood changes. Ones where the roar dies down and is replaced by enriched textures woven into sheets of sound; for these are tracks that Danderfer has intended for a more reflective space in the heart of the music.
Danderfer plays with untrammeled elegance and such good taste that the timbre of the already rich sounding instrument is greatly enhanced. And because his music is so sophisticated and full of surprises, he can turn his licorice stick into a wand of fire, when the music demands it. Danderfer unequivocally gives notices that he is indeed the heir apparent to the clarinet (and to the bass-clarinet and flutes as well, when he adds them on).
Accelerated Development was conceived and written as nine remarkable musical sketches inspired by an extended sabbatical in Shanghai, China. The music is wonderfully modern, yet deeply rooted in blues and jazz harmonic idioms and rhythmic metaphor. For instance, "Blues Migration," is not so distantly related to Ornette Coleman's own "Blues Connotation," not only by title, but also in its unfolding form. "Constricted/Connected" is based on an edgy melody and richly layered harmonic progression, but what is most remarkable is the unfolding rhythm within the melodic line. Superb of course is how Danderfer's clarinet and Turner's horn converse in counterpoint, untilwith a slash of piano strings by Chris Gestrin, signals the handing over of proceedings to a stellar solo by Chad Makela.
Pianist Gestrin also adds thrilling beauty when he dips in and out of the music with his Fender Rhodes. "The Constant River" features intricate interplay between piano and trumpet. "Last Dance at the Canidrome" is simply extraordinary in its textural beauty and is a story that is wonderfully narrated. Neither bassist Paul Rushka nor drummer Joe Poole are featured, but they are outstanding both rhythmically and harmonically as they traverse the bars of Danderfer's challenging music that is deeply rooted in emotion and rich in imagery.
Track Listing: Blues Migration; Constricted/Connected; Memory Loss; The Constant River; Firecracker; Accelerated Development; Robot In A Coma; Elec-centricity; Last Dance At The Canidrome.
Personnel: James Danderfer: clarinet, bass clarinet, flute and alto flute; Brad Turner: trumpet and flugelhorn; Chad Makela: baritone saxophone; Chris Gestrin: piano and Fender Rhodes; Joe Poole: drums and percussion; Ryan Ishkanian: tenor saxophone (2).
Record Label: Cellar Live
Style: Beyond Jazz