Horn duets are often as challenging as solo horn recitals, both to listeners and performers alike. Free from the frameworks of traditional chordal and rhythmic instruments such pairings can also create a rewarding theatre of unrestrained experimentation. The two players who join forces on this disc aren’t your average Joes. Both seem bent from the onset on unlocking this shared state of being.
Cycling through reeds (and in McPhee’s case a spare brass tool) the duo charts a course by way of constantly changing and often-ethereal sounds. The underpinning of electronic manipulation further stretches the harmonic canvas opening up the inherent limitations of their instruments to a multitude of previously impossible sound precincts. The sprawling opening track holds true to the instinct-laden connotations of its name as the pair unveils a litany of extended techniques and spontaneously rendered patterns ranging from piercing note extensions to fluttering, barely perceptible reed pops. Clocking in a close to a half-hour these highly personal creations are necessarily spotted by moments of lesser impact and collective resolve, but the journey from impetus to completion is also pregnant with thought provoking moments. McPhee’s use of circular breathing on valve trombone two thirds of the way through the piece is just one instance, a revolving orbit of Doppleresque lines that drone in tandem with Giardullo’s bass clarinet.
The other pieces on the disc may be less momentous in length, but each one contains kernels of analogous brilliance comparable to their more spacious cousin. On the title track fluttering streams of elongated tones dance above an abyss of silence, while hue-saturated “Sienna” exists as a sonic veneration to electro-acoustic improvisation. Trane’s timeless “After the Rain” is rendered comparatively straight, but lacks none of the brave sense of discovery that imbues the other tracks thanks to the communal creativity both players funnel into their exquisite variations on the theme. The art of the duo is a sphere necessarily reserved improvisers able to negotiate its myriad challenges. Giardullo and McPhee prove themselves in possession of such mettle, but those listeners familiar with either player are unlikely to require any such convincing.
Track Listing: A Priori/ Specific Gravity/ After the Rain/ Sienna.
Personnel: Joe McPhee- alto clarinet, soprano saxophone, valve trombone, electronics; Joe Giardullo- flute in C, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, electronics. Recorded: September 27, 1997, Bridgeport, CT.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.