George Lewis

Sequel (For Lester Bowie)
Intakt CD 111

Honoring the late Art Ensemble trumpeter Lester Bowie with a “sequel” to Bowie’s famous 1969 concert with European improvisers, George Lewis redefines the shape and personnel of the project to reflect globalized 21st Century music. Melding acoustic and electronic impulses, Lewis creates a directed composition “for cybernetic improvisers” that defiantly and memorably stakes out contemporary creative music’s multi-faceted identity.

Along with his trombone and laptop computer, the ensemble consists of Americans, percussionist Guillermo E. Brown, guitarist Jeff Parker and Miya Masaoka on koto, laptop and electronics. British electronics manipulator Kaffe Matthews, Germans turntablist DJ Mutamassik, Ulrich Müller on guitar and laptop and Siegfried Rössert playing acoustic bass and laptop are the Europeans.

Defined by zigzagging textures that encompass pulsating drones, appended sound samples and hissing oscillations “Sequel” plus three shorter postludes – one dedicated to Sun Ra – substantiate jazz’s tradition of welcoming novel sounds to the music’s bedrock. Arrhythmic at points to establish space among electronic wave forms, Brown also ruffs concentrated backbeats, that when coupled with flanged guitar licks and bass pulses provide beat-laden funk tinges. Lewis’ blustery plunger timbres or accelerated triplets extended, transformed and reformatted with electronics, suggest Dixieland, Bop and R&B shoved into a blender, with the shards spit out to fit particular interplay. Meanwhile Masaoka expanded harp-like glissandi share space with distorted, crunching prepared guitar frails.

Although enthusiastic amplified crowd sounds sometimes heard are merely DJ samples it’s probable that this Euro-American confab will prove as significant – and enduring – as Bowie’s initial foray.

Ken Waxman

CODA Issue 332