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Grosse Abfahrt: Vanity

John Eyles By

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Grosse Abfahrt is a sizeable ensemble, here consisting of eight players. Leader Tom Djll is aware that a grouping of this size presents issues to be addressed. As he outlines in his sleeve notes, one of these is "the conflict between fluency and comfort among improvising compadres. Fluency between players' languages and approaches is desirable, of course; however, it can lead to complacency."

Having eloquently outlined those issues in print, the ensemble's music presents solutions just as eloquent. The grouping here divides into a core of five players who are all familiar with each other's playing, plus three outside players who have not played with any of the core members. The outsiders, Matthieu Werchowski, David Chiesa—both from France—and Theresa Wong—from the Bay Area—are all string players, whereas the core mixes brass, reeds, electric guitar, and electronics.

Despite the contrasting instrumentations of the core and the outsiders, it never feels like there is competition—or combat—between the two. Rather, they complement and interact with each other. At times the electronics seem to emulate the sounds of the strings, fitting in with them but creating a distorting-mirror effect. The playing of both the core and the strings together frequently creates prolonged drone passages, which are overlaid with short passages of solo playing that bubble up to the surface, linger awhile and then merge back into the ensemble. Overall, there is quietude about the music; it evolves at a gentle, unforced pace that fits naturally with the sounds of the instruments.

Somewhat atypical of the album as a whole is "Hang Bat5 Over," just featuring the duo of Werchowski and Chiesa, without the core. The two engage in a prolonged—over ten minute—exchange of bowing that ebbs and flows between them with neither dominating. The bass and violin have sounds distinct enough to allow us to hear their individual lines, which weave in and around each other to good effect. It is one of those tracks that almost demands to be played again as soon as it is over, something that is equally true of the album as a whole. A good balance between fluency and comfort, with no hint of complacency.

Track Listing: Sportsman's Paradise Music LA; Mo Frippy; Hi L8R Bra; Hang Bat5 Over; CA Mirror; Cthlhu Kids First; Zoundz--Yours to Discover; May Cal Oknotok; Kablamo; Live Free or Die Delphi2.

Personnel: Tom Djll: trumpet, preparations and electronics; Matt Ingalls: clarinet and bass clarinet; Theresa Wong: violoncello; David Chiesa: double-bass; John Shiurba: electric guitar; Gino Robair: energized surfaces and voltage made audible; Tim Perkis: electronics.

Title: Vanity | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Emanem


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