For the descriptively-titled Variable Density Sound Orchestra, guitarist Garrison Fewell has assembled a group whose members expertly develop the thematic content central to the pieces on the album. All but one are composed by Fewell, the disc closing with Butch Morris' "Namthini's Shadow." Trumpeter Roy Campbell, Jr. plays with Fewell for the first time here, the rest of the ensemble consisting of second guitarist Eric Hofbauer, reedist Achille Succi, bassist John Voigt, drummer Mike Matsuki and percussionist Alex Fewell, who spices up the music with whistles, seed pods and bells.
Throughout the recording, the horns dominate: synchronous fanfares in "Spectronomous," "Ayleristic" and "Venus"; the trumpet's melodious nostalgic journeys in "Olorun Song," "Red Pyramid" and "Venus"; the bass clarinet's characteristic sputtering in "Fragment Alignment" or deep tonal layering in "Descent from Orbit" and the alto's mellifluous essay in "Red Pyramid" and ultra-expressive overlay in the outstanding centerpiece "Venus."
Even when the musical lines tend to go in multiple contrapuntal directions, the group behaves as one coherent unit, highlighting certain instruments. Unexpectedly, the two guitars do not take center stage. They assume a role that ornaments a main line, extending the strengths of the lead instruments, most notably with the alto in "Venus"; in the latter tune, both guitars float over a stirring rhythmic backdrop. In "Olorun Song" and "Ayleristic," bass and guitar create a solid duo interweaving. The bass establishes not only the inescapable pulse in "Namthini's Shadow," but also becomes, with the elegantly disposed drumming, the piece's mainstay.
Track Listing: Spectronomous; Olorun Song; Ayleristic; Fragment Alignment; The Red
Pyramid; Venus; Descent From Orbit; Avant Aria; Calculations at
Yaxchilàn; Namthini's Shadow.
Personnel: Garrison Fewell: guitar, prepared and bowed guitar, slide, percussion;
Eric Hofbauer: guitar, prepared guitar, frame drum, percussion; Roy
Campbell, Jr.: trumpet, flugelhorn, flute, percussion; Achille Succi:
bass clarinet, alto saxophone; John Voigt: bass; Miki Matsuki: drums;
Alex Fewell: percussion (6, 9).
I grew up listening to my father's Jazz records and listening to radio. My dad was a musician for many years as a vocalist, bassist and drummer. His two uncles played in the Symphony of Reggio Calabria back in Italy
I grew up listening to my father's Jazz records and listening to radio. My dad was a musician for many years as a vocalist, bassist and drummer. His two uncles played in the Symphony of Reggio Calabria back in Italy. So music and jazz specifically have been a part of me since I was born. I love and perform in all styles of music from around the world. Improvisation in jazz is what drew me in, and still does as well as other genres that feature improvisation. A group of great musicians expressing themselves as one is the hallmark of great jazz and in fact all great music.