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James Falzone: The Room Is

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James Falzone: The Room Is
Legend has it that Jimmy Giuffre harbored a vehement distaste for the use of percussion in his ensembles. He found drummers distracting, irritating and clamorous. By the time he recorded the classic records 1961 (ECM, 1992) and Free Fall (Columbia, 1963) he had jettisoned drummers from his piano and bass trio. It must have driven marketing executives mad. How would listeners follow the music? Who kept the time? What's with all this freedom?

Exactly, what is with all this freedom?

Enter clarinetist James Falzone and his 6 clarinet Renga Ensemble. Certainly, if freedom was the only principle working here, the music would sound like 6 monkeys trying to make love to a football. Not to worry, Falzone assembled an all-reed ensemble of strong individual voices, with fellow Chicagoans Ken Vandermark, Keefe Jackson, Jason Stein, New York's Ned Rothenberg, and the San Franciscan Ben Goldberg. The band was named after the Japanese poetic tradition of blending multiple voices to create one meditative work. Like a traditional saxophone quartet, the pulse is generated by the reed players, but unlike a saxophone quartet, the roles of each player are not fixed.

The music of The Renga Ensemble is a journey that begins with eleven Falzone compositions (there are also three very brief improvisations) that expand, mostly imperceptibly into improvised parts. His musicians give the proper consideration to the music, but more importantly, to the other players. It's the monkeys and the football thing. Selfish soloing would have doomed this outing, the music here is played with temperance. The flow of each piece, from the brief Renga pieces to the larger compositions, "The Room Is," "White," and "Until" is refreshingly not complicated. Falzone's tracks grow organically through the written notes by way of the individual voices of his players. Ken Vandermark, doubling on baritone saxophone, provides some over-blown circular breathing to "The Second Renga" that acts as fertilizer for the clarinet plantings. Falzone's compositions are cleverly simple organisms that mutate and grow. "White" seeps out, spreading its soundscape over valleys and through hills blessed by clarinets until it pauses for a few moments of John Cage- inspired (or is it Philip Glass?) silence. The music here is for listening. Sure that statement may sound fatuous, but Falzone's ensemble suggests the opposite of pop music: that the heart will follow the ear.

Track Listing

Personnel

James Falzone: Bb and Eb clarinets; Ken Vandermark: Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone; Keefe Jackson: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, contra Bb bass clarinet; Jason Stein: bass clarinet; Ben Goldberg: Bb clarinet, contra Eb alto clarinet; Ned Rothenberg: Bb clarinet, alto saxophone.

Album information

Title: The Room Is | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Allos Documents

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