All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

215

Anthony Burr / Oscar Noriega / Chris Speed: The Clarinets

By

Sign in to view read count
The Clarinets is both the name of the all-clarinet improvisational trio of Chris Speed, Oscar Noriega and Anthony Burr, and the title of their new CD, the first release on Speed's new Skirl Records imprint. Here Speed (on clarinet), Noriega (on bass clarinet and clarinet) and Burr (on bass clarinet) explore the possibilities of their instruments in an improvised setting. Jazz purists won't find much to enjoy here: these eight pieces (gloriously recorded in the expansive former-church interior of the NACL Theater in Highland Lake, New York in 2005) display an almost-complete absence of tempo, jazz licks or harmonic development.

That said, this is surely the most affably accessible all-improv recording in a very long time. The Clarinets play measured, patient material that's undeniably atmospheric—a little too there to be ambient music, but simmering just above the line of that genre—but at the same time musically memorable. The term "instant composition gets bandied about so often in reference to musical improvisation that it's become a cliché, but here, for once, it's true: the power of songs like "Constellating and "Scrawl to implant themselves in the listener's mind is entirely the result of their elegant and, yes, compositional construction.

Texture and tone also play a huge role here. Lovers of the sweet, wooden sounds of these reeds—and that includes the sound of simple aspiration and percussive, popping pads as well as musical notes—will be in ecstasy hearing these voices converse, argue, join and detach. "Languor couldn't be more aptly titled as Speed's clarinet sighs out a melody along the sleepy, slow-stirring bass clarinets of Noriega and Burr. There's a real sense of unhurried, sunrise awakening—you can almost see the rays playing across the veldt as the lions stretch and rise.

"Accord embodies its title just as perfectly as the bass clarinets burble irritably and separately, while Speed's clarinet sings out wildly-dissimilar long, keening notes. Eventually Noriega takes up Speed's line, and then the lone holdout, Burr, gives in and takes it up as well, as if grudgingly converted by an unassailable argument. In the end, consonance wins out over schism.

Whether or not the preceding flights of interpretive fancy have any basis in fact doesn't really matter much. On "Lovescar, the spacious, silent performing space feels like the fourth member of the band—its emptiness surrounding the quiet cacophany of the increasingly chattering reeds. There's a pin-drop pregnancy of event here that's quite powerful, even if the song resists any glib search for narrative.

The three musicians here are old companions and The Clarinets has a corresponding amiability of dialogue—there's kindness and humor in the voices, even when they're not unified. Clarinet enthusiasts should hear this music—and so, for that matter, should everyone else.

Track Listing: Constellating; Languor; Accord; Televiewer; Scrawl; Mockingbird; Negatives; Lovescar.

Personnel: Anthony Burr: bass clarinet; Oscar Noriega: bass clarinet, clarinet; Chris Speed: clarinet.

Title: The Clarinets | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Skirl Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Love + Time + Divination CD/LP/Track Review
Love + Time + Divination
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2018
Read Gleb Kolyadin CD/LP/Track Review
Gleb Kolyadin
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 22, 2018
Read NEVER DIE! by \\livingfossil// CD/LP/Track Review
NEVER DIE! by \\livingfossil//
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: February 22, 2018
Read 25th Anniversary Project CD/LP/Track Review
25th Anniversary Project
by Geannine Reid
Published: February 22, 2018
Read SuperClusters CD/LP/Track Review
SuperClusters
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 21, 2018
Read Your Queen Is A Reptile CD/LP/Track Review
Your Queen Is A Reptile
by Chris May
Published: February 21, 2018
Read "Live From A&R Studios New York August 26th 1971" CD/LP/Track Review Live From A&R Studios New York August 26th 1971
by Doug Collette
Published: July 29, 2017
Read "Recent Developments" CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "Phenobarbital Sessions" CD/LP/Track Review Phenobarbital Sessions
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: February 2, 2018
Read "Invisible Threads" CD/LP/Track Review Invisible Threads
by Samuel Stroup
Published: January 24, 2018
Read "Blind Curves and Box Canyons" CD/LP/Track Review Blind Curves and Box Canyons
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 4, 2017
Read "Unification" CD/LP/Track Review Unification
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 12, 2017