Frank Macchia & Brock Avery: Rhythm Abstraction: Azure

Dan McClenaghan By

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Reedman-arranger-composer Frank Macchia didn't take the conventional route in putting his EP Rhythm Abstractions: Azure together. He didn't get a huge orchestra in one studio, pass out the charts and explain to the players what he was trying to do. What he did was pare the personnel down to a minimum and turn drummer Brock Avery loose for some serious improvisation time. Then Machia layered in a whole bunch of reeds—piccolo, flutes (alto,bass, contrabass), clarinets (alto, bass contrabass), saxophones (sopranino, alto, baritone, bass, contrabass), ocarinas...

The music germinates, with Avery's stream-of-consciousness percussion mode giving way to Macchia's improvisational reponses, married to the patient meticulousness required to record dozens of layers of the individual reeds and more percussion contributions.

Beginning with "Echopraxia" (the title referring to an involuntary repetition or imitation of another person's movements), the sound plays in a manner similar to an expansive soundtrack to a frenetic and perhaps surreal movie scene. Macchia employs a tone row here (G, A, Bb, C, C#,D, Eb, F and F#). The music is lush and busy, a beautiful assault on the senses. "Balinese Butterflies" goes with a minor scale against a major scale. It sounds like a hundred percussionists in the swirling sea of reeds in an ominous theme from a jungle scene—a lost island teeming with prehistoric reptiles, or perhaps a giant ape, with butterflies fluttering about his head.

"Emma's Dilemma" exudes a majestic whimsey, a score for a bumbling protagonist in an early twentieth century black-and-white movie, and "Last Call" (featuring Eric Jensen on electric guitar, Alex Iles on trombone) sounds like bluesy, after-midnight accompaniment to a scene where the detective shambles down a dark alley, into bad company.

There are seven tunes here, clocking in at about twenty-five minutes of complex and riveting jazz classical fusion. Frank Macchia and Brock Avery plan two more similar EPs in 2020. If they follow in the mode of Azure, we will have three succint sets of sounds which ebb and flow with the rhythm, offering an edifying and satisfying musical journey.

Track Listing

Echopraxia; Balinese Butterflies; Emma's Dilemma; Last Call; Madness!; Dreams of Salvadore Dali's Llama; Panoply.


Alex Iles: trombone (4); Eric Jensen: electric guitar (4); Tracy London: vocals (7).

Album information

Title: Rhythm Abstraction: Azure | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Cacophony



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