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Album Review

JD Parran & Mark Deutsch: Omegathorp: Living City

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JD Parran & Mark Deutsch: Omegathorp: Living City
The spirit of the exotic weighs strongly on Omegathorp: Living City, the most recent collaboration between reedman J.D. Parran and stringman Mark Deutsch. It's no surprise: Parran was a crucial member of the Black Artists' Group—the seminal St. Louis artists collective and one of the first formal musicians' organizations to champion freely improvised black music—and Deutsch is an acclaimed performer of North Indian classical music. Nonetheless, there is hardly a trace of tension about the album; what might, in lesser hands, sound jarring or forced comes across as a meeting of the minds—a truly integrated sound. The music on Omegathorp is organic and free, drawing strength from the flavorful, somewhat foreign combination of East and West.

Here, Parran and Deutsch show that the subtleties of group improvisation need not be determined by idiomatic mores. The feel of this recording emerges from the convergence of personalities—not so much the dictates of genre, as this is not quite a "post-bop or "free jazz album. What the two leaders have discovered is a space beyond themselves, a sort of sonic middle ground. While the signposts are clear—and there are vestiges of Hindustani music, American free jazz, electro-acoustic improvisation, and musical theatre here and there—this is far more a sort of sui generis music than anything that these artists might have produced in isolation.

If there is any modern improvisation that might point the way to this sort of ensemble sound, it's Roscoe Mitchell's 1980's work with the Sound and Space Ensembles. On Omegathorp we have the same sort of lilting cantilena, the same transparent, somewhat alienating sense of openness. The Mitchell groups and Omegathorp share the lispy, melodramatic vocals of Thomas Buckner, and Buckner may in fact be the crucial element here—declamatory and obscure, he is disaffection incarnate. But whereas Mitchell's music might revel in its estranging qualities, Parran and Deutsch take isolation to mean mutual alienation; Omegathorp is something else—the sound of shared understanding in a special, unknown space.

Track Listing

Omegathorp: Living City Suite: Explore Coming Forth; Breath Textures; Done Chanting Forests; Done Woman. Kwama Okura; Improvisation.

Personnel

JD Parran: alto clarinet, soprano saxophone, bamboo flute, contrabass clarinet (in Eb); Mark Deutsch: bazantar, sitar; David Darling: cello, electronics, electro-vocals; Kevin Norton: percussion; Joseph Kubera: piano; Thomas Buckner: voice.

Album information

Title: Omegathorp: Living City | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Y'All of New York, Inc.

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