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Oluyemi Thomas: Before the Beginning

Rex  Butters By

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Recorded live at the 2002 High Zero Festival in Baltimore, Maryland, Before the Beginning documents Oluyemi Thomas in action. Under recorded and wildly original, Thomas prowls a boundless unknown through whichever horn he blows. The program presents Thomas as the constant playing with a changing configuration of partners. The CD divides the near-continuous performance into six movements.

Opening with airy atmospherics, 'Humbled & Grateful' quickly finds Thomas' rich and reedy bass clarinet exchanging ideas with Baker's piano. Thomas boldly stands the middle ground between the relatively rigid tonality of the piano and Hayleck's toneless sonic spices conveyed through amplified wire and hydrophones. From shrill multiphonics to deep primal tones, Thomas gracefully sweeps through the instrument''s range. Switching to the ARP 2600 synthesizer, Baker joins the others in pure intonation, and Thomas moves to cymbals and percussion. With Thomas possibly on a stritch, 'Interior of the Moment' finds him buoyed on swelling tone waves. Baker's synthesizer envelopes the group, and Thomas again turns to hand percussion. Smaller bursts and blurps from the ARP creates chilly electro space until Thomas grounds it with wooden flute.

A raw wavering bass clarinet roams with Espvall-Santoleri's steady cello on 'Detachment.' Baker scatters piano spikes and Thomas goes multiphonic. With Thomas still on bass clarinet and Espvall-Santoleri bowing, 'Dancing Butterflies' playfully unfolds as a duet with both players evoking the winged insect's erratic flight pattern. 'Oneness' features Espvall-Santoleri's high harmonics with Thomas contributing soprano fanfares. Thomas soars through impossible octave jumps and runs.

Recordings from this Oakland-based artist come few and far between, which makes this captured performance an invigorating listen for fans of free improv.

Title: Before the Beginning | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Unknown label

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