Carl Maguire: Floriculture (2006)
Floriculture is clearly a jazz record and does not seem to inhabit Between the Lines' usual niche at the point of collision between modern classical composition and jazz improvisation, perhaps because of the standard jazz band instrumentation.
The first delicate notes of Carl Maguire's piano in "Egocentric" repeat odd phrases that move in and out of phase with each other, but when the rest of the band enters, powerfully amplifying and filling out the theme, you know that you are in for a trip. The piece sounds like Fieldwork's Simulated Progress in its density and power (but with a bass, of course) until Chris Managan enters on alto saxophone. Although it is hard to say whether the music is through-composed or improvised (or a mix of both), "Egocentric" is a wonderful introduction to the talents of Maguire and his band, and its main theme infuses the rest of the album, creating a unified whole.
After the first "straight" track, "Denizen Green" begins with various sax sounds, plucked and scraped piano internals, and bowed bass notes and harmonics, all accompanied by the rising and falling densities of Dan Weiss' percussion, eventually evolving into a noticeable pulse. The mists lift, and what earlier seemed chaotic now comes together as a long-limbed theme played in unison by piano and sax, which rises into the sun.
It is now clear that Maguire's music really is "between the lines," but from the other sidethe composed sections appear, then blend into the improvisations, which then mutate back into composition. No sharp lines demarcate anything, and "Denizen Green" is a major statement of compositional technique and improvisational ability. The band shows itself to be an organic unit that evolves with the music.
Each piece gives no hint where it is going to go, creating a palpable tension as the record proceeds, since the sense of compositional unity created by the theme keeps building, while at that same time that same feeling is being pulled apart by the improvisation of the players.
Floriculture most definitely exudes the mark of an extremely confident composer in Carl Maguire, who has a deep feel for the freedom that jazz allows. His bandmates obviously enjoy bringing his music to life, and I thoroughly enjoyed taking the trip with them.
Track Listing: Egocentric; Denizen Green - for Mark Dresser; Jilly; Chamber Social; Subsurface; Ermes Marana - after Italo Calvino; The Nord Lord - for Gabriel.
Personnel: Chris Mannigan: alto saxophone; Carl Maguire: piano; Trevor Dunn: bass; Dan Weiss: drums.