Ned Rothenberg's Sync Live at Tonic
New York, New York
February 8, 2007
When musician-producer John Zorn proposed recording for his Tzadik label's Radical Jewish Culture series, multi-reedist Ned Rothenberg was hesitant at first. Not one to force inspiration, he let the idea marinate for several years. It surfaced as he composed for a planned incorporation of cellist Erik Friedlander and violinist Mark Feldman with his trio Sync, which includes bassist/guitarist Jerome Harris and tablaist Samir Chatterjee in addition to Rothenberg's woodwinds. Though the group doesn't rely on overt Jewish scales and melodies, these are woven into the rich aural tapestry of the music of Inner Diaspora, a composition reflecting Rothenberg's thoughts on identity.
The work is highly original and intensely personal, drawing from a breadth of stylistic influences. The East- meets-West paradigm suggested by Chatterjee's melodically rhythmic tabla and Rothenberg's occasional Japanese shakuhachi, juxtaposed with the strings and reeds, seeks the consonance between the sounds and instruments of diverse traditions.
The pronounced fluidity of the composition was highlighted during a February 8, 2007 performance at New York's Tonic. A pizzicato cello or bass clarinet might pick up the bass line, or the violin would double or continue a clarinet's melodic line, allowing greater flexibility in the arrangements. The improvisations flowed from and were informed by the composed sections so that even the wildest extrapolations were tethered to the written music.
Retaining the CD's sequence, the show opened with the crisp groove of tabla and acoustic bass guitar on "Keyn Eynhore. Rothenberg's clarinet swirled in a semi-call and response with unison violin and cello, before Feldman took the first of many dazzling solos. A transitional pizzicato part sprang Friedlander, who soon mixed in with his initial pizzicato statement some bowing for textural contrast.
The haunting wisps of the bamboo flute blended with Harris' lap steel and the rubbed and scraped strings of violin and cello to bring to life the subtle airiness of "Minutia," the extended sonic coloring a departure from the soaring lyricism of other pieces. "Fantzayor was built around a long repeating phrase that displayed Rothenberg's circular-breathing mastery on alto sax. Chattering tabla supported staccato punctuations that jumped out-of-phase between the other musicians on "Gilgulim. The lines gradually grew longer, coalescing in a bold unison statement of the theme, reenacting the process by which Rothenberg's Inner Diaspora first took shape and found expression in this music.