Miguel Frasconi/Denman Maroney

Gleam
Porter Records PRCD 4047

By Ken Waxman

Creative improvising has been produced on instruments ranging from the church organ and bassoon to comb-and-tissue paper and suitcase drums, so why not glass objects? Composer/performer Miguel Frasconi proves it can be done on this notable CD.

Frasconi’s decades of experience using a collection of found and specially tuned glass objects that are bowed, struck and stroked creates polyphonic textures that reference bells, marimbas and even brass and reed timbres. Upping the ante, his performing partner here is Denman Maroney, who transforms a grand piano into a hyperpiano by removing the internal damper and plate to bow, slide, stop and strum the exposed strings with objects such as copper bars, bowls, rubber blocks and CD jewel cases. The resulting textures engage both the strings and their extensions allowing him to play in several tempos and harmonies. It’s as if he’s sounding several stringed instruments simultaneously

Founding member of the new music Glass Orchestra and composer of dance scores, Frasconi’s common ground with Maroney – who usually plays with improvisers such as reedist Ned Rothenberg and bassist Mark Dresser – is to concentrate on the musicality of their chosen instruments, rather then their supposed novelty. During the six inventions here metronomic piano chords share space with internal strings pumps and rattles as quivering, near-human whines and strident aviary-like trills resonate from the glass menagerie.

Gleam’s centerpiece is the almost-25 minute “Glass”. Evolving in double counterpoint, caressed glass textures and crystal bowl like pings reach an almost baroque-like resonance as they intersect with frenetic keyboard pumping and restaurant kitchen- like clatter from the piano innards. Eventually the quivering, yet highly rhythmic, interface coalesces to such an extent that whether a particular broken octave or altissimo shrill originates from a curved or strung surface becomes irrelevant. And all this is done without overdubbing or the addition of electronic processing.

With this CD, Frasconi and Maroney have created a sound world which is unique in taking full advantage of the inimitable timbres of their self-created instruments. Yet in invention and sonic excitement, it fits comfortably among the best improvised music.

Track Listing: Gleam; Glaze; Glide; Gliss; Glass; Gloss

Personnel: Denman Maroney: hyperpiano; Miguel Frasconi: glassharp and glass objects

— For All About Jazz-New York July 2010