Hans Tammen: Third Eye Orchestra (2009)
This is a stunning live recording from one of improvised music's most fascinating proponents. Hans Tammen has gathered a dream team of 13 improvising musicians, but that's hardly the totality of this project, which combines composed material with extemporization to create a score whose modus operandi is constant change on every level.
This is one of those discs that verbiage won't encapsulate. The music on offer here is not to be compartmentalized, though it exists in discrete but connected sections. These large-scale vignettes might morph and grow with slow intensity or they might groove hard, but they share the performers' penchant for timbral exploration. Check out the engagingly free inter-registral solo that opens the disc, courtesy of the wonderful violinist Mari Kimura. Below and around it, long-toned exhalations bloom and hang suspended, pause, then recur. They prefigure the final section of "Antecedent," with its long looming tones shot through with tasteful signal processing, bringing a perfect sense of closure to the disc's first half.
Journalist Howard Mandel's liners state that "Consequent" is an alternate version of "Antecedent"'s material. So different is the execution that resemblances become less important than what occurs in each moment. As its second part, "Subtle Inconsistencies," unfolds, we can revel in the unique pianism of Denman Maroney as it dissolves effortlessly into Stephanie Griffin's viola lead.
The production is as good as the music is diverse. Each musician's identity is readily apparent while a unity is maintained. The Roulette audience is remarkably restrained and it is hard to believe this is a live recording without the accompanying documentation. Mandel's notes are to the point; he resists hyperbole, focusing instead on simple elucidation of Tammen's concepts and their genesis.
This is an excellent disc from a musical maverick whose approach keeps evolving. Not easy listening by any means, it will please those with a taste for long-form adventure.
Track Listing: Antecedent Part I - Opening; Antecedent Part II - Death Clock; Antecedent Part III - Mdina Experience; Antecedent Part IV - Coup D'Archet; Antecedent Part V - Verrano; Antecedent Part VI - Triadic Closure; Consequent Part I - Istres Control; Consequent Part II - Subtle Inconsistencies; Consequent Part III - Zipangu; Consequent Part IV - Intentionally Left Blank; Consequent Part V - Treadmill; Consequent Part VI - Red Eye.
Personnel: Mari Kimura: violin; Mark Feldman: violin; Stephanie Griffin: viola; Tomas Ulrich: cello; Briggan Krauss: alto saxophone, baritone saxophone; Marty Ehrlich: bass clarinet, alto saxophone, flute; Robert Dick: flute, contrabass flute; Detlef Landeck: tuba; Dafna Naphtali: voice, live sound processing; Ursel Schmidt: piano, keyboards; Denman Maroney: piano, keyboards; Stomu Takeishi: bass; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion; Hans Tammen: concept, real-time arrangement.