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Scanner with the Post Modern Jazz Quartet: Blink of An Eye

Lyn Horton By

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From the very first sounds heard on Blink of An Eye's "Shadow Splice," a ground is gradually established with bass piano chords, a minor-key string bass arco line, a floating vibe resonance and steady pulse rising from the cymbals.

As the Duke Ellingtonian "Blues In C" evokes, the source of improvisational music is the tradition of jazz. No argument. But over time, the tools feeding into that tradition change and become a go-to part of the instrumental inventory, more so now than in the nascent application of electronics by Miles Davis or Ornette Coleman. British musician, Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, masterfully integrates electronic sounds into the acoustic brilliance that emanates from the foursome of the Post Modern Jazz Quartet. The electronics are responsible for the sonic details that the acoustic instruments cannot create. These details unite the spaces between the radiance illuminated by the acoustic instruments and perceptual imagination.

Each acoustic musician clearly has his own voice; collectively, these voices weave through and interact with a multiplicity of synthetically generated organ-like drones, multi-string and chord simulation, static or oscillating chatter, blip ostinatos, siren codas, specifically pitched hums, haunting wind washes, and desirable beat-box overloads. In kind, Rimbaud steers the electronic voice through the acoustic performances, participating in the group like anyone else. He even performs his own solo in "Dreaming With You At My Side."

The sound character of the acoustic instruments looms large. Pianist Matthew Shipp's repeated chords and beautiful melodic phrases are indomitable; he even goes inside the piano to counter the Scanner's digital configurations in "The Decisive Moment." To complement the inclusion of binary-ridden electronics, Khan Jamal's flawless and discrete mallet gestures interlock into a glorious ringing over the intense bass tonality. As exemplified in "Most With The Least," bassist Michael Bisio plays nothing less than healthy pulsating pizzicatos which are never lost midst the Hertz-ian phantasmagoria that fills the atmosphere. How drummer Michael Thompson and Bisio together maintain the rhythm puts to rest the notion that an electronically driven beat supersedes whatever humans can do, especially when both musicians are playing within the same time structure to which electronics singularly contribute.

The "Post" in Post Modern Jazz Quartet is not simply a prefix chosen by chance to defer to the name of the great Modern Jazz Quartet. "Post" means "after," implying that improvised music has to graduate to a contemporary state of mind and needs to be accepted in present time for the explorations it engenders rather than being trapped, never to evolve out of the old school. Even members of the old school, like Duke Ellington, might be the first to say "Bravo!" In Blink of An Eye, Scanner invents riveting arpeggios similar to those Charlie Parker once presented on his alto sax to club audiences. They looked askance at this new music at first, but, eventually came back, repeatedly, for more.

Track Listing: Shadow Splice; Blues In C; A Galaxy Of Winking Dots; Not A Frame Earlier Or Later; Involuntary Reflex; Most With the Least; Dreaming Of You At My Side; The Decisive Moment; Cuts And Shadows; Beyond The Edge Of The Frame.

Personnel: Robin Rimbaud: producer; Khan Jamal: vibraphone; Matthew Shipp: piano; Michael Bisio: bass; Michael Thompson: drums.

Title: Blink Of An Eye | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings


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