February 9, 2004
Weary Already of the Way
482 Music 482-1025
MATT BAUDER/JASON AJEMIAN
Locust no. 38
Probably the biggest challenge facing listeners to reedist Matt Bauders two new CDs is figuring out how much of the music is composed, how much is improvised and how much is the result of studio manipulation. On the other hand you can merely allow the sounds to seep from your organ of Corti into your consciousness, reacting to them on a purely visceral level.
Bauder is one of the many young Chicago improvisers whose allegiance is as much with post-rock, contemporary classical and electro-acoustic drone as it is with jazz. Most of the players work in each others bands and a considerable number of them — including at least three on the sextet date — have played with the scenes most prominent representative, saxist Ken Vandermark.
Yet considering that the duo with bassist Jason Ajemian features the two improvising with pre-recorded versions of their own sounds, and the sextet date is more about pitches and textures than composition, the way this music is approached makes even Vandermark appear as traditional as Louis Armstrong.
Consider WEARY ALREADY OF THE WAY. The defining of the four untitled tracks is probably the first more than 20-minute outing. Working with all-acoustic instruments, the band still manages to reconfigure and manipulate the sound in such a way that it often appears as if the oscillating tones and wiggles are coming from electronic treatments. In fact, a good five minute elapses before the breath suggestions from sound holes and body tubes finally morph into a gentle, unison cornet line from Todd Margasak, who has recorded with reedist Scott Rosenberg and Rob Mazurek, leader of the Chicago Underground bands.
Overlaid on top are clarinet tones from Bauder and Aram Shelton, who is one-half of the Grey Ghost duo. Underneath is strumming bumps and grinds from bassist Jason Roebke, whose trio features Shelton, and who is in a trio with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who contributes glissandos to this pieces, and who seems to be on every alternate CD from Chicago, including some of Vandermarks sessions. In front of the cellists arching arco tones and bubbling brass continuum are tiny flutter tonguing from trombonist Jeb Bishop, another Vandermark sideman. As the reeds take on melodica textures, the entire output sweeps across the soundfield, coming in and out of focus like shimmering patterns in the desert sands.
Other tracks are less experimental with built up reed lines harmonized into a canon at one point and enlivened with tongue slaps at another. Working as much inside the tubing as from the bell, the cornetists advance muted ghostly echo that quickly vanish into the ozone layer, while plunger trombone sounds sometimes interrupt the too perfect symmetry.
Construction of distinctive thematic phrases voiced by the reeds reaches a climax on the final track where Bauders tenor saxophone keeps repeating an unvarying theme pattern that serves as the rhythmic undercurrent of the piece. Supporting first a plucked bass line and the by cello double stops, the ostinato gives the others freedom for Dixieland-like polyphony, with slurred reed bites from the altoist, blaring, open-horned processional music from the cornets and bleating bone tones. After fusing into a single tone, mitosis takes place, with different instruments producing counterpoint to one another. As the grace notes fade, studio wizardry appears, as buzzes pulsate and orchestral suggestions float through the piece, diminishing in audibility ever so slowly so that first impulses and then fading echoes are left ringing in your ears.
OBJECT 3s entire 31-minute piece includes undulating machine-like rustles, rather like the circular drones youll sometimes sense just out of earshot on AMM discs. Eventually you can be lulled into an almost dream-like trance as the bowed solid tones of the bass and reed trills dissolve into a single drawn-out dirge. Eventually the extended stopping from the bass gets darker, higher, undulating pitches from the reed vibrate more roughly until they approach siren territory.
Just when youve decided that you cant tell whether the creation is studio static or single breaths, the two minidisks which have recorded the first half of the performance are put into shuffle mode and paradoxically more sound pitches enter the aural picture. Reed harmonies expand to presage saxophone quartet suggestions — and the kazoo-like peep — while the built up, unison arco basses coalesce into a solid organ-like tone.
Thought provoking in some senses, your appreciation of these experiments will still depend on how much melody and rhythm you want to jettison in your listening habits. Bauder and company will be heard from in the future. But as maturing musicians, it will be instructive to see if the sonic territory here will continue to be their only conclusion he — and they — draw as to how to create an original style.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Weary: 1. 20.05 2. 7:58 3. 8:21 4. 16:08
Personnel: Weary: Todd Margasak and Rob Mazurek (cornets); Jeb Bishop (trombone); Aram Shelton (alto saxophone and clarinet); Matt Bauder (tenor saxophone and clarinet); Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello); Jason Roebke (bass)
Track Listing: Object: 1. Normal
Personnel: Object: Matt Bauder (tenor saxophone); Jason Ajemian (bass)