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' Groupthe seminal St. Louis artists collective and one of the first formal musicians' organizations to champion freely improvised black musicand 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 mindsa 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 personalitiesnot 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 clearand there are vestiges of Hindustani music, American free jazz, electro-acoustic improvisation, and musical theatre here and therethis 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 heredeclamatory 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 elsethe 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.