340

Bang on a Can / Don Byron: A Ballad for Many

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
It's no surprise that clarinettist Don Byron bemoans the musical conservatism of the 1980s "young lions jazz movement. New York has always been richly cosmopolitan—musically and otherwise. It's also no surprise that for A Ballad for Many, his first album to focus almost exclusively on composition, he has collaborated with the intrepid new music ensemble Bang on a Can. With its unorthodox instrumentation and repertoire, Bang on a Can has always been an unusual collective, but it's perfect for Byron's multidisciplinary writing.

Byron's six-part suite written for the Ernie Kovacs video "Eugene should also come as no surprise. More than a comedic innovator, Kovacs was also a musical eclectic, using everyone from Bartok and Stravinsky to Bechet and Ellington to accompany his work. Byron's suite is equally catholic. The abstruse first part, initially driven by David Cossin's tick-tock percussion, devolves into greater cacophony. Part two also features a strong percussive pulse that's uncharacteristic in new music, and long-form development that could be a setup for improvisation—but in this case isn't. Part four episodically blends an avant-garde edge with cellist Wendy Sutter's brief but lyrical duet with pianist Lisa Moore. A strange mix of highbrow art with lowbrow humor, "Eugene is a soundtrack suggestive of the off-kilter imagery fundamental to Kovacs' comedy.

A series of unrelated pieces act as intermission between "Eugene and the nine-part "Music from The Red-Tailed Angels. The persistent seriousness of "Blinky Blanky Blokoe belies its absurd title. "Spin may only last 95 seconds, but it's brimming with ideas. "Basquiat is darkly elegant, with guitarist Mark Stewart's graceful simplicity and clarinettist Evan Ziporyn's lithe melodism ultimately converging for greater dramatic impact

"Red-Tailed Angels revisits Byron's ongoing interest in the Tuskegee Airmen. But while Tuskegee Experiments (Elektra/Nonesuch, 1992) used improvisational edge to make its points, "Red-Tailed Angels relies on a detailed series of miniatures—from the 29-second "Fortunately to the two-minute "Credits —to create its emotional arc. "450 Tuskegee Airmen and "Finally in 1941 are militaristically cinematic, while the soaring "Silver Wings —one of three tracks on which Byron performs—is a lovely jazz-informed trio for two clarinets and cello, harkening back to a time of deceptive innocence.

The closing "Show Him Some Lub demonstrates the ensemble's full breadth. Moore's brooding opening leads into interweaving contrapuntal clarinet and cello lines supported by Cossin's funky stance, Moore and bassist Robert Black's insistent riff, and Stewart's aggro guitar work. All the while responding verbally to Byron's questions about ethnicity, it's a confessional that fits in perfectly with the diverse yet personal aesthetic of A Ballad for Many.

Visit Bang on a Can and Don Byron on the web.


Track Listing: Eugene: I; II; III; IV; V; VI. Fyodorovich; Blinky Blanky Blokoe; Spin; Basquiat; Music from The Red-Tailed Angels: Integrity; Silver Wings; Despite a Barrage; Explanation; 450 Tuskegee Airmen; You Can Fly; Finally in 1941; Fortunately; Credits. Show Him Some Lub.

Personnel: Robert Black: bass; David Cossin: drum set, percussion; Lisa Moore: piano; Mark Stewart: electric guitars; Wendy Sutter: cello; Evan Ziporyn: clarinet, bass clarinet; Don Byron: clarinet (10, 12, 19).

Title: A Ballad for Many | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Cantaloupe Music


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "No Answer" CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Incidentals" CD/LP/Track Review Incidentals
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 18, 2017
Read "A Multitude of Angels" CD/LP/Track Review A Multitude of Angels
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 2, 2016
Read "Live in Sant’Anna Arresi, 2004" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Sant’Anna Arresi, 2004
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 17, 2016
Read "Sermon Organ Combo" CD/LP/Track Review Sermon Organ Combo
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 29, 2017
Read "Vol. 1 - This Is My Swamp" CD/LP/Track Review Vol. 1 - This Is My Swamp
by Paul Naser
Published: September 29, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.