Simultaneously dedicated to 20th century classical composer Olivier Messiaen and legendary rap and hip-hop producer J Dilla, Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian Microjam! is a musical adventurer's dream and a purist's nightmare. But anything more conventional from conceptualist, composer and guitarist David Fiuczynski would probably be disappointingafter all, he's the "Fuze" who lit the raging bonfire of the Screaming Headless Torsos, whose rock experimentation was once famously described as a "jazz/rock/funk orgy."
Flam! Blam! draws from Fiuczynski's service as Director of the Planet MicroJam Institute, devoted to studying microtonal harmonies that expand the traditional twelve-tone Western chromatic scale (intervals smaller than a semitone or "the notes between the notes") at the Berklee College of Music. His band comprises former Institute students Utar Artun and Jack Sherman, (microtonal keyboards), Justin Schornstein (bass), Alex "Bisqit" Bailey (drums), Helen Sherrah-Davies (violin) and Yazhi Guo (Chinese oboe and percussion), with fellow free spirit Rudresh Mahanthappa contributing alto saxophone to the last three tunes.
But Flam! Blam! is even more far out than that: It connects the dots between Messiaen's music, Dilla's famous beats, Gagaku (ancient court music from Japan), and field recordings of five bird calls (the Common Loon, the Carolina Chickadee, the Northern Nightingale, the Blackface Solitaire and the Brazilian Uirapuru) transcribed for fretless guitar, violin, and microtonal keyboard. "When it comes to groove music, in terms of microtonality, you can really be a musical Captain Kirk and go where no man has gone before," Fiuczynski understates. "The field is wide open."
The opening "Loon-Y Tunes" employs the calls of the Common Loon and Carolina Chickadee, and haltingly stops and starts, pecking at the melody like hungry birds digging the ground for breakfast. Fiuczynski's guitar wobbles in, bending notes with a liquid, coming up from underwater, sound, while wood blocks and other percussion count the beat down like a slowly unwinding clock. "Dance of the UiraPuru" honors the sonorous Brazilian songbird with violin that soars and dives as if reveling in the freedom of flight.
Flam! Blam! moves even further out from there. In less than three minutes, "Oiseaux JDillique" welds J Dilla's "flam" beats into the call of the Northern Nightingale, Fuze's solo sounds like a catfight in the middle of a bird's nest, and the bassist ignites a frantic, thundering rhythm like free jazz dynamite. Fiuczynski doubles on piano to combine trademark Messiaen chords with his guitar-emulated Gagaku orchestra in "Gagaku Chord Candy." Full of empty space, violin moves resolutely back and forth within like a spider patiently weaving its web while Guo's otherworldly oboe moans and throbsthe overall effect is the sound of Yusef Lateef's groundbreaking Eastern Sounds played by aliens in floating spacecraft weirdness.
If you organize your music collection by style or genre, good luck with finding a place for Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian Microjam!
Loon-Y Tunes; Dance of the UiraPuru; Flam; Q&A Solitaire; Oiseaux JDillique; Gagaku Chord Candy; Waldstimmen; Uira Happy Jam; Organ Wren; Loon-Ly Solitaire.
David Fiuczynski: fretted guitars, fretless guitars, piano, percussion; Helen Sherrah-Davies: violin; Yazhi Guo: Chinese oboe, Chinese percussion; Utar Artun: microtonal keyboards, Rhodes, synthesizer, piano; Jake Sherman: microtonal keyboards, Rhodes, synthesizer, piano; Justin Schornstein: fretless bass, effects; Alex “BisQuiT” Bailey: drums, bells, percussion; Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone.
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