There is nothing conventional in the sound worlds of Los Angeles-based composer and cornetist/flutist Dan Clucas. He rarely release an album; his last official release with his Immediately quintet was Exile
(pfMentum, 2006), though he released four albums in 2011 on his Bandcamp page, two of which were solo recordings and solos/duos with a computer program. Do You Know The Ways
features unique instrumentation for quintet: cello, two drums, tuba and Clucas (on cornet and flute), performing two long compositions that evolve intuitively, with a distinctive, loose structure.
"Chaparral," which clocks in at about 25 minutes, begins with an assured cornet solo. Clucas' playing (later on flute) is full of urgency but, at the same time, very gentle, stressing long melodic lines. Cellist Jessica Catron, drummers Brian Christopherson and Dave Waynewho add light electronicsand tubaist Mark Weaver encompass Clucas' instruments with restrained, minimal gestures, building quiet, dramatic tension. This tension is never resolved, however, throughout the changing, arresting episodes of this dark composition.
"Ask Possum" is a free-form collective improvisation, moving between energetic moments and distant, atmospheric segments, while still focusing on mutual listening and tight interplay. Here, Clucas features his extended techniques on cornet and breadth of his musical vocabulary, referencing influential players such as Bill Dixon
and Don Cherry
Clucas' second composition, "Boulevard," develops patiently. Beginning with the leader sketching long, simple lines on cornet and changing into a slow, microtonal cello and tuba duet energized by spare drumming, it concludes with Clucas' distorted playing, which blurs the delicate, fragmented interplay previously built by the other players. The freely improvised "Ask Peacock" closes, sticking to the same vein of patient interplay, though here it is more energetic and playful, alternating solos on a simple theme.
Dan Clucas's Lost Iguana Ensemble's debut is a highly rewarding musical journey.