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George Lewis' electronic excursions have looked good on paper for years. However, for whatever reason, they have seemed a hard nut for the trombonist to crack in performancebut 2006 has been a good year for him. In April he presented a piece for jazz sextet plus his own laptop as a part of the New York AACM series that showed a new, cinematic side to his computer-driven composing; and in June he played a gorgeous electroacoustic duo with trumpeter Bill Dixon as a part of the Vision Festival. Sequel, subtitled "A Composition for Cybernetic Improvisors, is the first wholly satisfying recording of Lewis the electronicist.
There are a couple of reasons for this. The session (actually recorded in 2004, so this year's epiphany is more mine than his) documents the first band he's recorded that can challenge him on the electronic side. The octet is made up of musicians who play both electronic and acoustic instruments (although not all playing both here), includin varied and talented artists like Guillermo E. Brown, Kaffe Matthews, Miya Masaoka, DJ Mutamassik and Jeff Parker. That lineup also means that his is not the only electronic voice in the group. His cyber-sensibility is, unlike in the past, integrated, not isolated.
In a sense, however, they still function like a jazz group, albeit one that, instead of playing recurring heads, seemingly has open to it just about any sound in the universe. The four tracks (one dedicated to Lester Bowie and one to Sun Ra, although there are no apparent musical similarities) work like a slowly moving suite with occasional solosdrums near the end of the first part, some nice turntabling in the second, resonant koto in the third. Lewis' trombone weaves in and out intermittently but is never the star. Sequel is an ensemble record with a strange tension of never going anywhere. And if it's not the strongest electroacoustic release of the year, it makes one look forward to Lewis' next move.
Track Listing: Sequel, A Composition For Cybernetic Improvisors (For Lester Bowie); Calling All Cyborgs (After Sun Ra); Tuning Meditation; Octavia's Dream.
Personnel: Guillermo E. Brown: drums, percussion, electronics; Ulrich Muller: guitar, laptop; Siegfried Rossert: bass, vocals, laptop; Miya Masaoka: koto, laptop, electronics; Kaffe Matthews: electronics; DJ Mutamassik: turntable; Jeff Parker: electric guitar; George Lewis: trombone, laptop, Buchla Lightning.