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Solo music is perhaps the most challenging kind of all. With no place to hide, it's just the musician communicating to the listener. Percussion music presents additional challenges for both the performer and audience, since untuned instruments, like drums and cymbals, lack obvious melodic qualities and tuned instruments, like marimba and xylophone, are not inherently harmonic. But percussion instruments have a vast timbral and dynamic range with which a skilled percussionist can elicit implied melodies and harmonies and present complete musical statements, not merely a barrage of rhythm.
Such is the case in the exceptional hands of Kevin Norton, who explores his concept of "total percussion in improvised music on Quark Bercuse. Norton approaches percussion music like the accomplished composer he is, freeing the drums from their traditional timekeeping role, exploiting their capabilities to craft fully realized pieces. Each composition has purpose and shape, and the results should appeal to both drummers and non-drummers.
The bouncy single-note marimba line of "Knots is punctuated with fleet multi-note flourishes, twisting the melody. Norton allows ample time and space for vibraphone notes to resonate and decay on the nuanced "Cutting Across. With an array of drum textures, sans cymbals, on "Number Nine, Number Nine, he uses a simple repeating pattern to extrapolate from and periodically rein in the tumbling momentum of the improvisations. The title track also has a recurrent melodic marimba phrase, with taut, suspenseful movement that is heightened when he breaks the line or plays in a lower register to comp for himself.
Norton's concept is most striking on "User's Guide/Louie the Loop, fifteen-plus sprawling minutes of dynamic peaks and valleys, as he moves from marimba to drum set and back without pausing or overdubbing. Playing the drum set, he mirrors the marimba pattern on cymbal for continuity, then embellishes against the established feel, artfully blurring composition and improvisation with the tuned and untunedtotal percussion music that successfully stands alone.
Track Listing: Knots; Number Nine, Number Nine; Cutting Across; Quark Bercuse; Tradition-Revision-
Decision; Cold Day in May-Newspaper Article about the Dead in Iraq; Users Guide/Louie
the Loop; At the Hands of Charlotte Corday; Transformed Energy; Later, Gonzo.
Personnel: Kevin Norton: drums, marimba, vibraphone, percussion.