Frank Macchia / Brock Avery: Rhythm Abstraction: Ruby

Dan McClenaghan By

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Frank Macchia / Brock Avery: Rhythm Abstraction: Ruby
Multi-instrumentalist Frank Macchia released his full length CD Rhythm Kaleidoscope (Cacophany Records) in 2018. The compositions were created over a foundation of Brock Avery's multi-layered improvised drum and percussion solos, with Macchia orchestrating a sea of woodwinds and synthesizer sounds, some brass and some prepared piano samples, resulting in a lush and feisty twenty-first century jazz-classical-fusion hybrid of the highest order. This mode of operation apparently caught his fancy. He follows up in 2020 with a three EP set—released between January and July of 2020—of music made in the same mode: Rhythm Abstraction: Gold (January release), Rhythm Abstraction: Azure(April release), and July's Rhythm Abstraction: Ruby, all on Cacophony Records.

Ruby opens with "Slither," as bluesy as it can get, featuring clarinets, saxophones and flutes over Avery's grooves. The vibe is similar to Duke Ellington's "Malletoba Spank," the opener of Ellington Jazz party (Columbia, 1959), a "let's see what happens" sound with the Ellington Orchestra playing over nine inspired percussionists. Macchia, for his part, creates a much denser soundscape, taking the fun and the "out there" feeling to a higher level, while only using one percussion guy, Brock Avery, who sounds like nine guys...or more.

"Dogmented" features a wah-wah augmented alto sax, followed by super swing feel with a flute solo inside an intense rhythmic adventure, while "Apparitions," with its lush voicings accompanying Avery's "dancing cymbals and bells" and floating brush work. Then there's "Juggling Gerbils." And for those who don't know what the small rodents sound like when in the process of getting tossed, one after another, into the air, this is it. Which leads to the supposition that the tunes, in such an improvisational mode, were tagged, surely, with the titles somewhere along in the process—after orchestrations had gelled up. This thought, run by Macchia, received the reply: "Yes, you're entirely correct!" Though he added that he'd prefer not to be called Shirley.

There's a real sense of Avery and Macchia---in the manner of Dizzy Gillespie—being serious about their music, without seeing any reason why they can't have fun making it. "Juggling Gerbils" could fit into the madcap whimsey of a cartoon soundtrack, like Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940). Mickey Mouse could be the juggler; Donald duck could chase the fuzzy runaways when they are dropped.

On the other hand, we have "Impending Doom," with the low bass and contrabass clarinets painting a dark and foreboding soundscape—maybe one of the gerbils from the previous tune is really a newborn badger cub, and Momma is coming around the corner.

Ruby closes with "Hallucination," perhaps the most beautiful and the most orchestral and classical sounding tune of the set, wrapping up an enthralling journey.

Track Listing

Slither; Dogmented; Apparitions, Gerbil Juggling; Impending Doom, Acceleration; Hallucination.


Frank Macchia: composer/conductor; Brock Avery: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Frank Macchia: orchestrations, piccolo, flute, alto flute, bass flute, contrabass flute; clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, saxophones, penny whistles, ethnic flutes, ocarinas, synthesizers; Brock Avery: drum set and more percussion modes than you can shake a stick at, including: pandieros, frame drums, tamborines, pods, metal bells and plates, shinclang, buffetonium, pipanafone, cymbals, stackers, bulb horn, varied sticks, brushes, mallets...and on and on.

Album information

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

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