Scott Rosenberg tickles, soothes, and bashes chaos with six performances by a 26 piece ensemble that knows how to rock and stare. Invoking demons like Braxton, Stockhausen, Cage, and Leo Smith begs for troubleand trouble includes Kyle Bruckmann, Jeb Bishop, John Shiruba, Kyle Hernandez, Tim Daisy, and Jim Baker, to name a few. Rosenberg has his own well thought out ideas on how experimental composition and free improvisation should get along on a date, and these sessions demonstrate how much fun they can have.
From the millennium comes "Tehr," easing in like a ripple on water that's suddenly choppy. Enough odd idiosyncrasies occur often enough to suggest composition, but the exotic beauty belies the question. A lulling float suddenly drops into the Marx Bros. with butcher knives. Questing questioning spontaneity blossoms in this colorful evolving landscape. Luscious tonal flavors mingle and dissolve.
Five years earlier he draughted "Wash," an ear bath of sustained tones, seemingly shifting in small groups. About halfway through, a small modulation marks the most dramatic moment, motionless but not without momentum. Next, '97s "7X" merges with 2001's "Sttm," the former beginning with spinier sound flares, benefitting from scratch and buzz guitar, Carol Genetti's soprano voice adding a Lewis Carroll quality, and the ensemble throwing spears. Dropping to a single trumpet, the ensemble rises, crashes, and leaves marimba and oboe to discuss matters. A big juicy tenor joins them then the ensemble returns portentously. Bruckmann adds another imaginative solo with ensemble support. The group rises to its crescendo coda.
Beginning wistfully, "Forgetting Song" maintains its balladic pace with frenzied bongos and an unraveling piano line from Jim Baker. Genetti adds wordless mournful vocals that turn gritty. Piano, guitar, marimba and bongo interludes repeat. Genetti duets gorgeously with trombone, then muted trombone plays through serial musings by Baker, the bongos, and a guitar. The ensemble slides out.
The 1996 epic "Toys" relies on five conductors. Divided into small groups, the orchestra becomes very differently arranged units, some of which mimic the rhythms of wind up toys. One section plays ambient while another strides boldly. Emphasizing one group over another, dominant actions within each group, the shifting narratives created all contribute to the overall effect. Stilted nursery songs meet jagged reality. After a less focused segment, the marching toy motif returns bigger and more voracious.
Rosenberg's effort joins a growing body of works for large ensemble created by new musicians fascinated by the power and expanded possibilities an orchestra affords.
Personnel: Lisa Goethe-McGinn, flute; Kyle Bruckmann, oboe; Matt Bauder, Jesse Gilbert, Paul Hartsaw, Laurie Lee Moses, Todd Munnik, Aram Shelton, reeds; Todd Margasak, Nathaniel Walcott, trumpets; Jeb Bishop, Nick Broste, trombones; Megan Tiedt, tuba; Carol Genetti, voice; Nathaniel Braddock, John Shiurba, guitars; Jen Paulson, viola; Chris Hoffman, Drew Morgan, violoncellos; Kyle Hernandez, Elizabeth Kennedy, Jason Roebke, contrabasses; Steve Butters, Jerome Bryerton, Tim Daisy, percussion; Jim Baker, piano/synthesizer; Scott Rosenberg, conductor