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Philip Gelb: Between/Waves

Glenn Astarita By

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Philip Gelb performs on the “shakuhachi” which is a Japanese flute made from bamboo with 4 finger holes and 1 thumbhole. Here, Mr. Gelb devises an interesting yet non-formulaic approach as he integrates his ideas into non-mainstream formats which include free-improvisation and electronics. The first piece, titled “The Space Between” was recorded live at Beanbender’s in Berkely, CA. Clocking in at 29 minutes, Gelb performs along with accordionist Pauline Oliveros, ROVA’s saxophonist Jon Raskin and pianist Dana Reason. This piece commences in somewhat of a playful and nonchalant manner as the group explore abstract tonalities and purvey improvisational dialogue. The band succeed at stimulating the senses and toying with one’s imagination. An emotional element prevails throughout, as Raskin and Oliveros provide contrast with Gelb’s shakuhachi performances especially when they converge in the upper registers of their respective instruments. The vibe at times is eerie and/or mystical yet the totality of the music conveys somewhat of an organic feel.

The 2nd piece titled, “Waves” was recorded live at Mills College as Gelb teams with synthesist and sampler expert, Chris Brown. On this 18-minute piece, Gelb performs over backwashes of what sounds like a babbling brook along with other curiously produced samples and electronics. The fun begins when Brown mimics – in interactive mode- Gelb’s instrument as he may have been sampling the instrument on stage, in a dynamic manner. The music is otherworldly as if spirits were communicating amongst themselves. Gelb and Brown do a commendable job of gradually evolving the music into something cohesive, which affords the listener the opportunity to follow and grasp the various themes similar to a growth cycle or a maturation process.

Between/Waves is refreshing, chilling, startling and altogether entertaining. Needless to state this isn’t elevator music! Gelb and Company offer up something which is rather unique, thoroughly modern and brimming with ingenuity! Highly Recommended - * * * * ½

Web/Ordering Info - http://www.shakuhachi.com/R-Shaku-Gelb.html


Track Listing: The Space Between; Waves.

Personnel: Philip Gelb: shakuhachi; Pauline Oliveros: accordion, conch; Jon Raskin: saxes; Dana Reason: piano; Chris Brown: electronics.

Title: Between/Waves | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Sparkling Beatnik Records

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