Straight out of Ventura, California, Jeff Kaiser releases the CD version of his recent performance with his Ockodektet and the Ojai Camerata, The Alchemical Mass. A riveting exercise crossing modern composition with improvisation and choral arrangements, all in the service of an authentic 15th Century alchemical text, its author having passed from royal court astrologer to executed heretic fugitive.
Filling out the remainder of the CD, Kaiser presents "Suite Solutio," an earlier outing with a sextet co-led with Ernesto Diaz-Infante. More improvisational in nature, the piece builds complex structures as they unfold from the imaginations of the participants. Both bands include SoCal stalwarts Vinny Golia, Richie West, Eric Barber, Jason Mears, and Michael Vlatkovich, among others.
Opening with Golia and Eric Barber on sopranino and soprano saxophones respectively, the reedists' pops and swoops are joined by an etheric vocal chorus, and after a pause the ensemble bursts forth. They retreat to again open space for the chorus, this time including male voices singing the text with the women's voices imitating wind song. West and Brad Dutz create tribal rhythms, with Golia raving wickedly. The richly written "Kyrie" features the voices with wind chime accompaniment. "Collecta and Gloria" has Kris Tiner's flugelhorn exploring over whispering voices, with tuba and bass undercurrents.
The shrill fanfare of "Epistola and Graduale" kicks up a variegated vocal response, giving way to the percussion and gongs of the "Offertorium." A swirling theme of reeds and horns parts for Kaiser and Mears to spar like old martial arts masters. Their rapid-fire interplay turns into serenely nuanced vibes from Dutz. A sequence of small group improv clears for Vlatkovitch's sliding ruminations. A mystical "Ave Maria and Commune" reprises the eerie vocal arranging with just tightly rhythmic small gongs ringing. The chanting loses the gongs and gains the reeds, and the vocals sweep upward.
West keeps cool on brushes to open "Suite Solutio," Connolly dropping low tones with Diaz-Infante sliding curlicues on his strings. "Part II" has Scot Ray on trombone and Kaiser each reaching for extended highs. Kaiser walks a different tightrope, muted, peering through the transtonal wisps of Diaz-Infante's prepared guitar on "Part III." "Part IV" launches on a figure conceivably built on Woody Woodpecker's laugh. The woodpecker morphs into an SST with West fueling inhumanly fast. Connolly stays in speed or rubberizes around the maelstrom. Singing gongs and cymbals, small flute and plunger muted trumpet and trombone create "Part V," with Ray getting enough room to turn lyrical.
Jeff Kaiser again shows himself to be a free improviser with striking compositional sense and excellent taste in traveling companions.
Track Listing: Introitus; Kyrie; Collecta and Gloria; Epistola and Graduale; Offertorium;
Ave Maria and Commune; Suite Solutio: Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V
Personnel: Jeff Kaiser, Kris Tiner, trumpet and flugelhorn; Mike Vlatkovich, Scot Ray,
trombone; Vinny Golia, Eric Barber, Jason Mears, woodwinds; Mark Weaver, tuba; Jim
Connolly, bass; Wayne Peet, piano; Ernesto Diaz-Infante, prepared acoustic guitar; Brad
Dutz, percussion; Richie West, drum set; plus, the Ojai Camerata: Diane Besocke,
Candace Delbo, Eleanor Land, Laura Johnson-Bickford, Lu Senicka, sopranos; Gwen
Erickson, Lisa Gordon, Katherine Halsey, Holly Mitchem, Zoe Pietrycha, altos; Carla
Aiello, Jaye Hersh, J.B. White, tenors; Dave Farber, Jim Halverson, Kurt Meyer, Bill
Wagner, basses; Dr. Wyant Morton, director.