Formed in 2006 for a now defunct improvised music series, Klang has since become one of Chicago-based clarinetist James Falzone's primary working groups. An update of the swing era clarinet and vibes combination popularized by Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton, the quartet (which features vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Tim Daisy) taps into some of Falzone's fondest indulgences on their studio debut, Tea Music, including a series of compositions inspired by clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre's 1950s-era small combo writing.
Key to the intimate, chamber music like dynamic of this quartet is the kaleidoscopic vibraphone playing of Adasiewicz, who accents, complements and contrasts the leader's clarion cadences with affable invention. A ubiquitous presence, Adasiewicz's rising status as a major player in Chicago's fertile post-Vandermark scene can be heard on a number of recent albums, including Old Idea (Delmark, 2009), Pluto Junkyard (Clean Feed, 2009) and Sound Is (Delmark, 2009). Together Falzone and Adasiewicz form a dynamic front-line, recalling the ebullience of Goodman and Hampton, the introspection of Jimmy Giuffre and Paul Bley, and Eric Dolphy and Bobby Hutcherson's spiky interplay.
A limber rhythm section, Roebke and Daisy drive the ensemble with quicksilver shifts in mood and tone. Brisk and economical, they underscore the delicate tonality of Falzone's woody clarinet and Adasiewicz's shimmering, metallic vibes with supple nuance and elastic timing. Throughout the set, Falzone and Adasiewicz's rapport veers from caustic to sonorous, fractious to lilting, as Roebke and Daisy accent each change with eloquent restraint.
An avid tea drinker, many of the pieces were written while Falzone was engaged in his favorite past-time. "Oolong With Multiplicity" vacillates between extremes, alternating a bristling thicket of precipitous angles with the austere pointillism of contemporary chamber music. Bringing his experience as Director of Music for Grace Chicago Church to "Lament On Ash Wednesday," Falzone evokes ritualistic drama with hypnotic percussion and spectral harmonies culled from wood and steel. The subdued lyricism of "Giants" and "Last Love Song" find the quartet at their most reflective, while effervescent tunes like "#32 Busonius," "Dwarfs" and "China Black" alternate jaunty melodies and punchy bop rhythms with freewheeling call-and-response, setting the standard for the session.
An adventurous yet accessible effort from the Windy City's finest young improvisers, Tea Music is another compelling album in a long line of stellar releases documenting the new Chicago scene.
Personnel: James Falzone: clarinet; Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone; Jason Roebke: bass; Tim Daisy: drums and percussion.