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It's rare to find an album as compelling as this one, and it's even more remarkable when all of the music on the disk is completely improvised. There is a stunning empathy between the five musicians who comprise Aercine, and the results of their musical relationship are sheer joy.
Aercine crosses musical boundaries as easily as a butterfly moving from one kind of flower to another, then another and another. "Kaaterskill Falls" begins wit h an apostolic Appalachian-tinged theme fervently played by violinist Mark Feldman. It is a statement with inexplicable excitement, yet charged with passionate awarenesselation and pathos combined. Bass, drums, and piano come into the matrix and adding complexity, propulsion, and depth to the piece by building on the original theme in organic and unusual waysthe piano accents by Michael Jefry Stevens are reminiscent of Webern's pointillism, while the bass and drums tumble over the falls with exuberant kinetics. Feldman plays strong, surging variations on his theme throughout the piece, but a few muted solo bass notes end the piece in mystery.
Throughout the recording the ensemble works with such precision and empathy that it would be easy to assume that these pieces are through-composed. That is one of the many strengths of this project; however, in fact they aren't composed, but fully improvised. Combining the discipline of precision playing with the creative freedom of improvisation is a wonderful dance, and one that this group achieves with ease.
This music merges and blurs the invisible borders between modern classical and modern jazz idioms. On "Aercine" this smudging of genres is particularly evidentthe piece is at once a tone poem, a John Cage piano filtered through a Charles Ives filigree, and a rumbling jazz etude all rolling into a unique gesture all its own. The whole album is filled with great surprises and adventure.
This disc is very well recorded and the production values are first rate.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.