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Muhal Richard Abrams / George Lewis / Roscoe Mitchell: Streaming

Troy Collins By

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Inspired in part by a live reunion concert at the 2003 Venice Biennale, seminal AACM members Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell recently reconvened for a studio session, having not recorded together since the late 1970s. They reveal a synergistic rapport, perhaps unsurprisingly due to their three decade-plus common history. An exceptional document of empathetic interplay, Streaming embodies the AACM's expansive aesthetic. These five lengthy, open improvisations reveal the trio's fine-tuned listening skills, conciliatory communication and knowing restraint, punctuated by passages of unbridled enthusiasm.

Flowing with a sense of linear narrative, these pieces fluctuate organically between moods and textures, unfolding with a communal logic that evinces years of mutual experience. Abrams, Lewis and Mitchell formulate a series of musical dialogues that are utterly contemporary in their delivery, yet timeless in their conception. Combining subtle electronics with acoustic instruments, they hold true to their AACM heritage, blending the ancient with the future.

Veering from whispered silence to raucous discourse, they alternate gauzy threads of airy texture with turbulent spirals of acute tenacity. Abrams adds the occasional percussive aside, generally holding forth at the piano. Hammering out abstruse single note runs and rumbling left hand tone clusters one minute, he plies minimalist refrains and pensive introspection the next. Mitchell stutters out acerbic, multiphonic shards from his soprano and fervent, raspy bleats from his alto. On "Soundhear," he explores an assortment of percussion, adding a kaleidoscopic array of shimmering bells and clattering accents.

Lewis elicits rapid, focused streams of pneumatic precision from his trombone, intermittently contributing muted utterances. Splitting his time equally between trombone and laptop, Lewis generates organic samples that add a futuristic sheen to the proceedings. Contributing subtle choral effects and oscillating synth drones, he even calls up bird songs on "Soundhear."

Eschewing continuous three-way conversations, these musicians use space and timing to excellent effect, regularly pairing off into duos or brief solo cadenzas. By varying structural dynamics, they elevate the energy level periodically for maximum dramatic impact, as on the calamitous title track.

This is intense music—dark and introspective, with fitful passages of turbulent discourse—and it's designed for committed listening. As uncompromising and experimental as any session Abrams, Lewis or Mitchell have made in the last three decades, Streaming is ancient to the future indeed.


Track Listing: Scrape; Bound; Dramaturns; Soundhear; Streaming.

Personnel: Muhal Richard Abrams: piano, bell, bamboo flute, taxi horn, percussion; George Lewis: trombone, laptop; Roscoe Mitchell: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, percussion.

Title: Streaming | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Pi Recordings

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