101

Earl Howard: Strong Force

Clifford Allen By

Sign in to view read count
Earl Howard: Strong Force There are those who decried the attempted merger in the early ‘60s of jazz and classical music, the Third Stream movement spearheaded by Gunther Schuller, John Lewis and others, as a disservice to both realms. True, these early attempted syntheses often left too many seams showing and too many loose ends to qualify as successful.

Nevertheless, the "improvised chamber music" aesthetic has met with better results in more qualified hands, ostensibly from the jazz realm (Anthony Davis, Anthony Braxton). Composer Earl Howard, who has written numerous scores for wind instruments as well as worked closely with video artists like Nam Jun Paik, wrote the open-form Strong Force in 1999 for the Parabola Arts Ensemble, and though the pedigrees of both composer and ensemble participants are strong, the twain have not quite met in this recording.

The Parabola Arts Ensemble features the composer on synthesizer, pianist Anthony Davis, cellist Ernst Reijseger, percussionist Gerry Hemingway and harpist Anne LeBaron. The first two movements of Strong Force are rather reminiscent of Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, specifically his works for similar instrumentation: a veritable stew of bent and bowed tones from cello and cymbals, matched up against dissonant tone rows from harp and piano. Howard’s synthesizer is tastefully applied, only occasionally seeping out from the mix to guide the improvisers in a particular direction.

The third movement seems to allow the most openness for the creative player; it begins with a duel between Reijseger and Hemingway, quickly building into a characteristically loud Hemingway solo. Reijseger unfortunately only gets two solo spots, and though he is a master of non-traditional cello technique (preparation; bowing everywhere but the strings; use of the instrument’s body), his solos are rather interchangeable here. Davis also has room to stretch out in this section; his characteristically stark, repetitious approach is in full force here, though the romanticism that peppered his work of the ‘80s is, at least in this context, somewhat absent.

In the final two movements of the piece, it seems as though a bit of steam is lost—what was a curiously twisted polytonality in the first two movements and vigorous solos in the third becomes a muddy and fairly nondescript stew by the fourth and fifth (each of which clock in at just under five minutes).

Judging by the first half of the piece, it might have been better to follow the score more strictly, allowing improvisation in brief passages that still adhere to the composer’s direction. Or, the Kagel approach of very little form could have been used, allowing the players’ spontaneous choices to take over. It seems that failure comes when one element usurps the other, throwing up a disparity that is difficult to rectify. That is what made Schuller’s music less than feasible, and what in the end makes Strong Force an unsuccessful effort.


Track Listing: 1. Strong Force, Pt. 1 (Howard) - 17:01 2. Strong Force, Pt. 2 (Howard) - 11:34 3. Strong Force, Pt. 3 (Howard) - 12:41 4. Strong Force, Pt. 4 (Howard) - 4:55 5. Strong Force, Pt. 5 (Howard) - 4:57

Personnel: Anthony Davis - Piano; Gerry Hemingway - Percussion; Anne Lebaron - Harp; Ernst Reijseger - Cello; Earl Howard - Synthesizer.

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Mutable Music | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Echoes Of Europe" CD/LP/Track Review Echoes Of Europe
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 26, 2017
Read "Functioning Broke" CD/LP/Track Review Functioning Broke
by Doug Collette
Published: July 3, 2016
Read "Buoyancy" CD/LP/Track Review Buoyancy
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 14, 2016
Read "In Denmark 1959-1960" CD/LP/Track Review In Denmark 1959-1960
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 18, 2016
Read "Live At Umbria Jazz" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Umbria Jazz
by James Nadal
Published: March 9, 2016
Read "Transatlantic Conversations: 11 Piece Band Live" CD/LP/Track Review Transatlantic Conversations: 11 Piece Band Live
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 14, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!