Bruce Friedman

O.P.T.I.O.N.S.
pfMENTUM CD 054

Contributing another method for guided improvisations, trumpeter Bruce Friedman has created O.P.T.I.O.N.S., which uses a collection of graphic notation symbols organized on 3 x 5 cards. Already part of the curriculum at Vancouver Community College, the trumpeter, who is based in the Los Angles area, organized this recording session to illuminate how his concept works.

Since the suggestions for pitch, rhythm, volume, shape and transformation change each time a minimally guided improvisation such as O.P.T.I.O.N.S. is played, so does the end result. Still if other versions of the process are as interesting as the four-part suite for a nine-piece, electro-acoustic group, then Friedman’s creation must be deemed a success.

A journeyman, Friedman has a firm academic grounding plus playing experience with a variety of improvised and notated modern music ensembles, not to mention gigs encompassing Los Angeles musical theatre; touring Japan with a tribute to The Platters; and playing with the Mariachi of The Ballet Mexicapan in East L.A. As well, most of the group members here are part of the circle of players who play in advanced ensembles lead by trumpeter Jeff Kaiser among others. Guitarist Jeremy Drake has ranged a bit further, collaborating with European free improvisers as well as ones from SoCal.

With the majority of these sonic tapestries pointillist, Drake’s measured plucks which range from mainstream to slightly metallic help define the program. So too do Eric Sbar’s euphonium growls and rumbles, providing a foundation throughout that is still supple enough to advance unexpected boosts or linkages.

With the euphonium’s constant burbling playing its part, the higher-pitched instruments balance timbres among themselves, with more than tuttis polyphonic. Legato violin and cello lines for instance are contrasted with guitar flailing and euphonium blasts, while sluiced woodwind trills and chirping flute lyricism find places to appear among the percussion clatter and bounces as well as the polyrhytmic pulsations and echoes leaking from Emily Beezhold’s keyboard synthesizer.

Individual tones aren’t sacrificed for group expression, so when O.P.T.I.O.N.S. reaches a climax of sorts with “MCT – 3”, there’s no sense of dislocation. Layered and accelerating in tempo, heraldic trumpet tones rest on top of drum rolls; near-vocalized string concordance vie with keyboard sonic washes; and ornamental flute patterns match ney-like reed breaths and skittering brass grace notes. Upticking to a staccato and irregular section, guitar clinks, euphonium hiccups, arching string plucks and frenetic trumpet split tones finally calm with the introduction of chalumeau reed vibrations.

Obtaining the graphic notation probably means that other ensembles can pursue their own O.P.T.I.O.N.S. to create their sonic versions of the score. Most likely they too will be memorable without being imitative.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Monochromatic Textures: 1. MCT-1 2. MCT - 2 with Solos 3. MCT - 3 with Solos 4. MCT - 4 with Duos

Personnel: Bruce Friedman (trumpet); Eric Sbar (euphonium); Lynn Johnston (clarinets); Ellen Burr (flutes); Andrea Lieberherr (violin); Michael Intriere (cello); Emily Beezhold (keyboard synthesizer); Jeremy Drake (guitar) and Rich West (drums and percussion)