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Ned Rothenberg & Denman Maroney: Tools of the Trade

Derek Taylor By

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Capitalizing on a healthy work ethic on their collection of CIMP duets reedman Rothenberg and pianist Maroney meet the challenges of their chosen instrumentation head-on. The no frills titles of the pieces stand directly at odds with the amount of preparation and planning that went into their respective birthings. Maroney’s manipulations to his rented instrument were so extensive and ‘potentially damaging’ in the opinion of the instrument’s owner that he was asked to secure a letter from Steinway stating his alterations would not leave any lasting effects. The pianist makes meticulous record of these various alterations in his accompanying notes. Rothenberg’s reed gesticulations are similarly intricate and invasive, regularly making use of extended techniques that are punishing both to his facial musculature and the health of his horns.

Found sounds gleaned from the piano innards are a regular occurrence. Objects such as bowls and screwdrivers make regular contact with strings and pedals translating their alchemy into sonic signatures. The sharp tones of “Saw” serrate the silence as bass clarinet and rumbling piano cavort in a macabre dissonance of voicings. Later Rothenberg jockeys through registers with intervallic leaps that immediately conjure the musical visage of Dolphy. Maroney moves from spindlely machinations to stabbing keystrokes and back again pounding out a peripatetic pulse. But even with all their coruscating calibrations a genuine tunefulness and even lyricism invades the music such as during the round robin antics of “Jug.”

If there’s an obvious flaw it could be couched in the duration of the program. Both men make valiant and concerted efforts to vary their sound palette over the course of their itinerary, but there are various instances when the conversation seems to necessarily mire in the novelty of their methods. Other moments, such as sections of “Plane” seem more like exercises than fully formed musical statements. For the most part though these tracks hold many mysteries to be solved by the inquisitive listener. As an interesting side note to the session engineer Marc Rusch recounts a curious and unforeseen sonic circumstance that marred the date. Halfway through the set the ventilation system in the recital hall activated. The resulting whir of machinery is audible on several tracks, but is hardly intrusive to the music.

Track Listing: Saw/ Jug/ Plank/ Plane/ Crab/ Skeleton/ Feet/ Ham/ Drill.

Personnel: Ned Rothenberg- clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Denman Maroney- piano. Recorded: June 5, 2001, Canton, NY.

Title: Tools of the Trade | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: CIMP Records

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