In an interview broadcast on Taran's Free Jazz Hour last November, New York reedman Joe Giardullo likened the music on this new large ensemble disc to the collective improvisation emerging from early 20th century New Orleans. His point was that those musicians were more concerned with their own parts rather than with the act of listening so often associated with improvised music. Giardullo also likened his titles to those of early Anthony Braxton.
Indeed, the composer paints a strangely beautiful line between, say, Baby Dodds and Braxton with his open forms, presenting the players with much fewer parameters than freedoms. A clarinet gliss here and an interregistral leap there bespeak multiple histories; such are the expressive devices encouraged by Giardullo's quasi-aleatoric approach. Those elements that are fixed exist mainly in the pitch domain and, as Giardullo observed in the extensive interview, if the players maintained his pitch sets, desired occurrences would pervade the music.
Even before hearing the interview, there seemed to be certain ineluctability about the way lines converged, diverged and reunited. From the disc's first moments, microgestural polyphony emerges that never seems overactive, though events delineate themselves in quick succession. The title track may be an even better point of entry, marimba and strings providing a busy but transparent and surprisingly spacious glimpse into Giardullo's methods.
He calls it G2, or Gravity music and its first manifestation came in 1979. This is G2's second generation and the Open Ensemble is lean, sleek and yet somehow full-bodied. The recording is extremely vivid, each note and gesture allowed to breathe in just the right way to foster clarity and impact, as this music thrives on both. Savor the augmented triad that ushers in "Calabar," full but sweet, or the lush counterpoint that informs much of "Q-2G(e)."
This is an unexpected, but rewarding listen, elucidating another facet of this fine musician's soundworld and the playing is highly committed throughout. It will be extremely interesting to see if subsequent large-scale projects follow similar paths.
Personnel: Joe Giardullo: alto flute, bass clarinet, sopranino saxophone; Lori Freedman: bass clarinet, clarinet; Gordon Allen: trumpet; Joe McPhee: pocket trumpet, valve saxophone; Michael Snow: violin; David Prentice: violin; Rosie Hertein: violin;
Martha Colby: cello; Daniel Levin: cello; Steve Lantner: piano; Rich Rosenthal: guitar; Dom Minasi: guitar; David Arner: xylophone; Brian Melick: percussion.