Don Preston/Andrea Centazzo

Escape from 2012
ICTUS Records 156

By Ken Waxman

Unfortunately the majority of people who know of keyboardist Don Preston only recall his tenure with Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention, and later involvement in Zappa tribute bands. But Los Angeles-based Preston, who turns 80 this month, has had a more varied career. As bassist, pianist and pioneering synthesizer player he gigged with people like trumpeter Don Ellis and clarinetist John Carter. He consorted with rockers, but is also featured on CDs with trumpeter Michael Mantler and pianist Carla Bley including the jazz opera Escalator over the Hill.

Percussionist/composer Andrea Centazzo, 15 years Preston’s junior, is a perfect partner, as this CD demonstrates. Centazzo has had a similarly fractured career, playing with saxophonist Steve Lacy, large orchestras and gamelan ensembles plus creating soundtracks and multi-media projects. Using electronic interface and sampling along with conventional instruments here, the two conjure up textures that suggest staccato cello and violin sweeps, positioned marimba pings, conga patting and bell-tree shakes. At the same time these acoustic approximations burble along beside or are involved with staccato interaction from signal-processed whooshes, buzzing wave forms and loops.

Subsequent tracks, “Escape #6” and “Escape #7”, pinpoint the duo’s contrasting jazz-like or electronic-focused approaches. The exposition of “Escape #6” features Preston’s walking bass and Centazzo time-keeping on percussion. But the overdubbed cymbals and tam-tams confirm they’re not in the ‘50s. With thick voicing, Preston’s pressurized keyboard glissandi drag the tune into the 21st Century, as the drummer’s snaps, rattle and drags subtly accompany him. While rhythmically paced drum beats underlie the head of “Escape #7”, the remainder of the narrative is defined by dial-twisting oscillations and watery synthesizer sputters. Coupled with dense sound envelopes and staccato loops from both electronic outputs, harsh patterning buzzes predominate. Yet other surprises are on tap at the finale. As Centazzo balances a resonating vibe-like tone produced by his MIDI-controlled malletKAT, pianist Preston creates a skeletal note cluster that could fit seamlessly into any microtonal performance.

Considering the talent displayed on this 2010-recorderd concert, you wonder about the CD’s title. Surely high-quality improvisations like these shouldn’t be escaping from this year but celebrated with pride.

Tracks: Escape #1; Escape #2; Escape #3; Escape #4; Escape #5; Escape #6; Escape #7; Escape #8

Personnel: Don Preston: synthesizer, piano, bass and electronics; Andrea Centazzo: percussion, malletKat, sampling and electronics

—For New York City Jazz Record September 2012