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Jonathan Townes: Live Art, Mars (1998)

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Jonathan Townes: Live Art, Mars No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

LiveArtMarsAvailable at MP3.com, Riffage.com and Giglaeoplexis.com ByJonathan Townes-guitar With Conrad Korsch-bass Andy Senesi-drums Jonathan Townes, obviously, is not a household name. Neither are the plethora of other “six-stringers with websites” out there competing for your dollars, and more importantly, your ears. Yes, Jon has his own site (www.giglaeoplexis.com ) as well as what is becoming an obligatory spot for “unsigned” (whatever that means, nowadays) artists over there at mp3.com (as well as a spot of honor at www.riffage.com ). Jon quite effectively separates himself from the rest of the mp3 poseurs (ok, maybe that’s a bit too sweeping of a generalization, but YOU try weeding your way through some of the “unsigned” instrumentalists on that site) on a number of fronts.First and foremost of course must be the music; both the composition and and the playing, but I'll focus on that later. What’s intriguing about Jon, and certainly makes for a more interesting piece of writing, anyway, is that if you do wind up “checking” him through his own website , what will immediately hit you is that he has a tangible online image , and even something of an online “career”. Jon’s been up and running in electron-land for about a year now, and has 3 releases under his own name (he’s on another, called “Glossolalia” by the group “Sun’s Anvil”, which was (quite positively) reviewed in the Nov. 99 issue of allaboutjazz), one of which is “out of print” (I am the proud owner of an actual hard copy of “Open” by Jon’s band Muchehatmintyfresh (don’t spellcheck it)). His website itself catches the wandering eye, yet the graphics and information presented therein are somehow pleasingly minimalistic. Jon thoroughly succeeds at projecting an online air of mystery and ephemeralness relative to himself and his music. You get the feeling that you’d better download those electrons NOW or forever lose them.

Rather than wait for the critics to play catch-up, Jon has even developed intriguing and quite fitting terminology for his music, describing it as "Liquid Stream of Electric Consciousness". Do yourself a favor and take a listen to the downloadable cuts..you’ll hear why. His site, in fact, contains a more fitting discription of the music than a reviewer could be challenged to formulate, to wit: “It's not really jazz, and it's not really anything else. It sounds like other things, but no word or phrase exists to fit the music.... Until now: ‘Liquid Stream of Electric Consciousness’. It probably fits a great deal of other music out there. The music is Liquid. It flows. It fits to the vibe of the moment. It's not confined to a single space, time, or temperament. The music is Electric. More than electric instruments. The music has a vibrant pulse. If done right, it will move you. The music continually moves from one moment to the next...”. Phew. I must admit that I was originally taken aback by a paradigm shift in Townes’ compositional direction as compared to the “Glossolalia” release, which features 8 (of 11) tunes composed by Jon, one of which , called “Penterra”, is a modern-day “Real Book” – type, jazz ballad. Most parts of the current batch of songs are composed on the fly, and indeed sound as if they are played with their primary goal being spontaneity. Andy Sanesi, the drummer on the most recent release “LIVEART” is a co-conspirator of John Zorn’s, which gives you a clue to deciphering the compositional roadmap here. Jon and the rest of his trio mates can stylistically flit from genre to genre as players and as on the spot composers.

In terms of distinguishing between his two online “records” Mars and LIVEART, the former is more acoustic and the latter more electric. On LiveArt, we get a the acid funk rock of “Hot Pants” giving way to “Path” ’ s power trio 4/4 rock workout and the “world-noise” of “Daruka”. We get an epic pastoral piece featuring sonic sculpturing movement that ends in a funk jam (“Circle Spied the Zigurat”) and a true 15 minute gem in “Spiral of the Groovish”, which indeed starts lightly, ending intensely a full fifteen minutes later. Along the way bass work from Conrad Korsch runs the gamut from clean fretless to Bootsy Mutron, supporting rapidly shifting tones and lines from Townes steeped equally in bop, fusion and rock.

On “Mars”, we definitely go more acoustic and get tunes that are more “composed”, if you will, while still real loose. I dislike using direct comparisons, especially to guitarists who are themselves relatively underpublicized, but this one brings to mind Wayne Krantz on strat with an acoustic rhythm section.

I’ll leave you with this line of thinking. Jon has given us a “full package” via the net, combining quality music with mysterious, insightful net/ media persona. All of this is available in toto to the interested and discerning listener/consumer , as far as I can tell, for a grand total of zero cost; that’s FREE folks. We all have nothing to lose by listening and looking. What Jon and many other artists of his ilk (I’m not talking of his abilities here, I’m speaking about musicians who give away their music for free) has to gain by offering this all up is not readily apparent, other than exposure for some future offering, whether it be in the form of music or live appearances. In the meantime, in the words of QVC, you’d do well to get in on Jon’s “special” offer.

Record Label: MP3.com


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