October 15, 2001
Crouton No #
BHOB RAINEY/GREG KELLEY
Selektion No #
BHOB RAINEY/JACK WRIGHT
Signs of Life
Springgarden No #
BHOB RAINEY/ JACK WRIGHT/FRED LONBERG-HOLM/BOB MARSH
Springgarden No #
Step right up ladies and gentlemen for the thrills and chills on show in each of the areas of our four-ring improv circus. Featured performer is saxist Bhob Rainey who performs a series of kinky, usual and death defying feats with his curved soprano saxophone. See him physically take it apart in front of your eyes. Hear him play through every part of the instrument and blow air, sonics and just about anything else you can imagine through those metal parts. Watch him deconstructing the very fabric of what we know of as music. And marvel at how interested you are in the process, even though you may never have seen anything like it before.
This may be a jocular way to introduce these four discs which feature Cambridge, Mass.-based saxophonist Rainey improvising on his own or with other musicians. But, in truth, unusual sounds demand an unusual response. For the past few years Rainey, who has a masters in composition from Boston's New England Conservatory, has been one of the burgeoning group of performers in Europe and North America taking improv past the frontiers of melody, harmony, theory ands expected instrumental tone into the realm of pure sounds. While this approach may only attract a minority of listeners, there's no doubting his sincerity. Folks with open ears and minds will be fascinated with a lot of what's available here. However, the uninitiated should be warned that the way Rainey plays makes the work of earlier, so-called experimental saxophonists like Evan Parker or John Butcher start to resemble the mainstream stylings of Stan Getz or Zoot Sims.
Rainey and trumpeter Greg Kelley have been working as nmperign since 1998. Over the years the two have developed a group sound, which is expressed in this, the band's fourth CD, made up of different live performances from a couple of years ago.
Remove any duo preconceptions you have before listening to this disc. Silence and near soundlessness is as much part of nmperign's oeuvre as anything else. When you do hear something it involves extended brass and woodwind techniques long before it reaches what the conventional would call music.
The titles are only there for convenience sake and you can listen to this disc — and the others as well — as one, long continuous performance. Kelly, who has been known to music-make with his mouthpiece and or horn sans mouthpiece, reduces the cylindrical brass instrument to its valves and resonating surface. Many of us try to ignore the fact that trumpeting involves spit, breath, lip vibrations and throat sounding, but Kelly's style here is in your face or more appropriately in-your-ear.
Rainey works the same way. Want to hear a saxist biting his reed, double- and triple- or flutter-tonguing, overblowing, slap tonguing or producing split tones? Well, it's all here, in spades, or perhaps in metal.
Still the overtones produced by these two are such that they actually suggest notes and tones that could come from other instruments, while the screeches and sound reverberations give the performance a cockeyed rhythm and shape. The end result should be fascinating for anyone interested in impressive duo work and certainly as valid as what would have been produced if mainstreamers Sims and Clark Terry had been the duet partners.
SIGNS OF LIFE gives you a chance to hear how Rainey interacts with another trumpeter, Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Tom Djll on two of the tracks. He and veteran saxophonist Jack Wright from Boulder Colo. are joined by Bay area clarinetist and alto saxophonist Matt Ingalls on two other tracks as well. But it's best to get any idea of the blends produced by the Duke Ellington sax section or even the World Saxophone Quartet out of your mind's ear before listening.
The brass-reeds combinations unfold like a slowly germinating flower. Again undertones and reverberations shape the pieces, with one of the saxmen often slap-tonguing for rhythm, another producing a steady mishmash of fleeting sounds as counterpoint ostinatos, while the trumpeter rolls out valve reverberations. Because of dissonance though, the overall blend produces a quilt of sound particles with the results
much more capacious then expected.
Distended sounds characterize the triple reed tracks as well, with each man contributing as many different sonics as possible. The only complaint here would be that the three don't take enough advantage of woodwind amalgamation. So busy creating non-conventional sounds with reed multiphonics and echoes, they appear to ignore the equally legitimate pitch commingling for which these instruments were initially designed.
Moving along, in the tradition of other unconventional quartets like the Bauer Brothers' two trombones-two guitars Doppelmoppel or Joe McPhee's two reeds-two basses Bluette, DOUBLE-DOUBLE features two saxophones and two cellos. Rainey and Wright are again the reedists, while Fred Lonberg-Holm of Chicago and the Bay area's Bob Marsh of are the string players.
Not only is the instrumentation non-traditional in the extreme, but the hierarchical arrangement of players is also ignored; neither duo is the soloists, neither is the rhythm section. Instead, what's on show is alluded to in the title: the equivalent of a masterful tennis match but with no player out to pulverize any of the others.
More of a blended group effort than the other discs, it doesn't stop the participants from playing individual games of strategy in their heads and working to satisfy their singular musical ideals. More often than not, however, by happenstance or design, the reed reverberations from deep inside the cylindrical bore or lungfulls of multiphonics are often in congruence with the steady string scratches, designated strums or raised bridge explorations of the cellists.
Somehow, as well, the designated soloist often operates on top of united woodwind lines or fused cello runs that produce a continuum upon which he can scrutinize his thoughts and the music. Except for the occasional grating squeak or elongated string slash, even the most hidebound modern jazz fan could probably listen to this CD long enough and finally decide that the quartet has the most natural grouping.
Finally there's SWEET SONK, five episodes of Rainey alone with his curved soprano. With the tracks ranging from 47 seconds to almost 10 and one half minutes you get a glimpse into the saxist's thought process and observe his attempts to bend the metal to his every whim. Elaboration of one idea, like how to shout and sound a pitch at the same time, characterize the shorter excursions, while the longest allows for theory elaboration. Moving from a collection of reverberations from deep inside his horn, he then create a pristine, woody, almost vibratoless tone before seeing how long he can hold a note and what vibrations are produced from doing that.
Eventually these five improvisations will end up on a three inch CD packaged with two other artists' mini-CDs. Considering though that the four discs here arrived for review as CD-Rs, there's no way to determine how well or unsatisfactorily they will fit together. Finding these session may be a problem as well. Contacting Rainey at http://homepage.mac.com/bhobr may help.
The saxophonist is gradually making a name for himself for more than the unique spelling of his first name. As one of the most committed intrepid free music explorers, it's worthwhile to follow most of his moves to see where they —and the future of improvisation — will lead.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Sweet Sonk 1 2. Sweet Sonk 2 3. Sweet Sonk 3 4. Sweet Sonk 4 5. Sweet Sonk 5
Personnel: Bhob Rainey (soprano saxophone)
Track Listing: 1. n 2. non 3. n n on n 4. non non n 5. no n 6. o o 7. n n
Personnel: Greg Kelly (trumpet); Bhob Rainey (soprano saxophone)
Track Listing: 1. Signs One^ 2. Signs Two* 3. Signs Three^ 4. Signs Four* 5. Signs Five
Personnel: Tom Djll (trumpet)*; Matt Ingalls (clarinet, alto saxophone)^; Bhob Rainey (soprano saxophone); Jack Wright (saxophones)
Track Listing: 1. Double Once 2. Double Twice 3. Double Thrice 4. Double Forst 5. Double Fist 6. Double Sexed
Personnel: Bhob Rainey (soprano saxophone); Jack Wright (saxophones); Fred Lonberg-Holm, Bob Marsh (cellos)