Argentine by birth, but now a resident of Chicago Gregorio is one of the unsung intellectual figures of improvised music. Since his relatively recent relocation to the Windy City he’s fostered numerous associations with the teeming creative jazz scene there and has even found the time and resources to record with several working groups for the Hat Art family of labels. This modest body of work was all that was available from the ingenious reed player whose other occupations are that of accomplished architect and educator. This disc, a compendium of his many musical experiments conducted during his formative years in Buenos Aires, will no doubt be something of a Grail for fans of Gregorio. Perhaps most startlingly they reveal an artist in many ways ahead of his time, at least in the region of the world in which he was operating.
The first several pieces focus on sound manipulations of piano, bells, clarinet and voices, with oscillating tape hiss (presumably a product of the recordings’ age, but perhaps not) providing a ghostly fourth wall accompaniment. “Campanitas” makes heavy use of tape delay and phase shift on an original recording of acoustic bells. “Elastikon” stretches the sonorities string and percussion devices into alien shapes. Next up are quartet of pieces culled from Gregorio’s sojourn with Música Más, a performance cooperative he jointly founded with friends. Fluctuating between small and large ensembles the pieces showcase odd instrument aggregations (electric accordion(!) sounding like apocalyptic pipe organ) and require the musicians to adhere to sometimes-rigid pre-composed rules, but the music produced is often stunningly unpredictable. “Collective Improvisation” changes gears to undiluted free-form interplay on a grand scale starting soft, but gradually rising in volume and variation. The most thought-provoking piece though is “Solo,” a solo alto improvisation recorded by Gregorio a full four years prior to Anthony Braxton’s For Alto setting the saxophone world on its ear. While the fidelity of this track is fuzzy, the music immediately posits the fragility of the jazz canon and its many dates and precedents, proving that when it comes to musical innovation no chronology should be etched in stone.
One cautionary note, much of the music is somewhat removed from his recent work with acoustic improvisatory ensembles. Early investigations into electronics, minimalism and abstract sound sculpture all crop up in the collage at various points. Personally I found these kinds of exploratory adventures less absorbing than the solo/duet/overdubbed instances of Gregorio on his reeds. But there’s so much diversity here that even listeners (like myself) who sometimes have difficulty stomaching electronics and sampling are sure to find much of interest.
Nearly as engrossing as the music itself are the exhaustive liner notes included by Corbett that delve eloquently into Gregorio’s creative process and his life in Buenos Aires when these recordings were taped. In addition, numerous photographs complement the illuminating prose making this package the most expansive aperture into Gregorio’s world thus far released.
Track Listing: Sobre el piano, adentro del piano, alrededor del piano/ Campanitas/ Elastikon/ Clarinete/ Voces/ M
Personnel: Guillermo Gregorio- piano, bells, diverse objects, little bells, clarinet, voice, prepared ocarina, alto saxophone; Carlos Miralles, piano, bells, diverse objects, trumpet; Ramiro Larrain, one string violin; Tito Fiore, tamborine, guitar, piano, percussion; Norberto Chavarri, conduction, xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone; Aldo Moreno, guitar; Victor Orloff, cello; Jorge Fernandez, double bass; M