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Marc Mommaas: Landmarc

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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If Marc Mommaas' tenor saxophone may be likened to the human voice, which is certainly the case on Landmarc, then he may be heard to "sing" several parts of an interconnected suite. Although each part has a specific English name, this belies the compound emotions that lie beneath each chart. However, a more rewarding way of listening would be to let the raw emotion of each melody invade the bare senses. A sudden recognition that there is interplay between emotion and the organic natural surroundings will emerge. This is the closest that any Western music—or music played in the Western stream—will come to emulate the melodic development of an Indian raga. If that sounds like a radical suggestion, it is, and Marc Mommaas' music stands up well to this scrutiny.

The saxophonist's effort is deliberate. His horn is really the only instrument other than the guitar and extrapolates from a basic melody in the same way that an Indian raga develops. Each begins with a statement and development of the linear theme, the aalap, which corresponds to the melody. Melodic exchanges between the lead guitarist, Nate Radley, and the others occur frequently during the architectural progress of the song. While the polyrhythmic percussion cannot and does not seek to mimic Indian taals and rhythms, Tony Moreno does an outstanding job of keeping the rhythmic base aligned to the mood and spirit of the piece. Indian ragas often define times of day or moods associated with times of day. In Mommaas' case, his erudition enables him to create a wonderful interplay between characters and their emotions.

"Brush on Canvas" conjures images of painter and model interacting in fading light. And the action is amazingly animated as Radley and Mommaas dance melodically around one another. "Patience" might describe a struggle at the height of the day that goes on deep into the dusk and thus swaggers between two sets of natural surroundings: brightness and graying darkness. "Landmarc" has a rich and perfunctory character, written in teen taal, and played with wild abandon. "Folksong" breaks the mold and is a tender sketch with a decidedly pastoral flavor, beautifully executed with Radley and guitarist Vic Juris playing contrapuntally.

The arpeggios that ripple through the opening of "Orbit" are executed with mathematical accuracy, but Mommaas soon enters the fray, adding a racy slant the melody. "Cassavetes Caravan," with Rez Abbasi's curved harmony on electric sitar, turns into a pensive affair as a film-like series of images unfolds, matching the oddly minor variations and the ensuing stark counterpoint.

This album indicates that Mommaas may be on to something wildly edifying. And even if he has not quite "got it," the music could herald the opening of the seventh chakra—the one that signifies illumination of the crown of the head—for Marc Mommaas.

Track Listing: Landmarc; Folksong; Brush on Canvas; Legend; Little One; Orbit; Patience; Cassavetes Caravan; ASAP.

Personnel: Mark Mommaas: tenor saxophone; Nate Radley: guitar; Tony Moreno: drums; Vic Juris: guitar (2, 6, 9); Rez Abbasi: guitar (4), sitar (8).

Title: Landmarc | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


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