Giacomo Merega, David Tronzo, Noah Kaplan: The Light and Other Things (2008)
David Tronzo is more than a master of jazz slide guitar and world rhythms, panethnic to microethnic. He's a magician that can conjure music from thin air, literally improvising between the notes, at least those commonly used in western music. Mathematically, there are about 479 million combinations of the 12 tones of the western scaleTronzo's opened the door to another half billion. He can also execute percussive rhythms while playing them, which results in a range of possibilities, quantifiable only by him.
One could therefore posit it's mathematically impossible for Tronzo to not make a cutting edge record with anyone, least of all two young musicians with improvisational credentials and fire in their bellies like bassist Giacomo Merega, who put this project together, and saxophonist Noah Kaplan. Both studied and performed with Joe Maneri at NEC and in the Boston Microtonal Society (your local chapter awaits). At the time of this writing Kaplan was Maneri's sole studentthe kids today! Evidently, microtones are not enough, because both Merega and Tronzo render more sonic possibilities by preparing their instruments using materials copped from the stationary aisle.
The hour-long program is completely improvised, with song titles mimicing paintings by Paul Klee, which serve as figurative references. Klee never painted Hendrix, but Tronzo channels his rhythm guitar style to propulse "Amateur Drummer," as Merega adds a bass drum heartbeat, using no drum. Kaplan takes the waning path to connect dots until Merega's underpinning triplet motif is left desolate. Tronzo's rejoinder spurs the bassist's mercurial fills and he ends by backing down a spiral staircase of harmony. Tronzo tags the song as he is so often capable, after sounding what seems like the most poignant voicingwhat seems like it should end the songuntil his last, more beautiful, twist.
"Drawing with Fermata" is just that, with guitar and bass first explored as percussion instruments, then long tones painted by each band-member. Tronzo elicits the first creaking processional motif, picked up by Merega subsonically, over which the guitarist then paints expansive voicings. He ends with a soliloquy of frequencies rendered from the slide at points beyond the end of the fretboard.
If slide mastery linked to conventional linearity is what you seek, "Once Emerged in the Grey of Night" features it, as well as some exceptional, cleanly executed flurries of operative clusters by Merega under Kaplan's more conventional, and formidable, linearity. Merega's ringing, literally clipped harmonics frame Tronzo's huge and harmonically uncertain chord voicings. Here, as throughout, no sonic cavity is left by the absence of drumkit, only a place to reenergize the ears.
Improvisatory music presents a difficult career path for the young musician. It's fortunate they have sterling, versatile and accessible role models like Tronzo to look up to. Their search is his gain, as they push him to new heights by presenting him with a new environment in which to thrive.
Track Listing: Once Emerged in the Grey of Night; Amateur Drummer; Destruction and Hope; Red Balloon; Figire in the Garden; With theGreen Rectangle; Rhythmic Landscape with Trees; Light Drum Roll; Drawing with the Fermata; Chorale and Landscape.
Personnel: Giacomo Merega: electric, prepared bass; David Tronzo: electric, prepared guitar; Noah Kaplan: saxes.