Modular Systems
Setola Di Maiale SM 3150

Jeff Platz

Low Light Filter

Glitch Records 005

By Ken Waxman

Jeff Platz is a deceptive guitarist. In agitated playing situations the Boston-based guitarist is like the nerd in a motorcycle gang. No matter how voluble his associates get, he retains an unruffled composure. He has a deeper improvisational secret as well. When cast in standard productions, he subverts expectations by outputting progressive concepts that only reveal their subversion on reflection.

A free jazz true believer, saxophonist Blaise Siwula is Platz’s partner on Modular Systems, alongside bassist Dmitry Ishenko and drummer Dave Miller, who each gets individual exposure but predominately animate the tracks with chunky string thumps and subtle drum accents. With Siwula’s extroverted multiphonics, expressed most stunningly in the unaccompanied coda to the final “Raw Vision”, with the bassist and drummer in sync, Platz is in the position Jim Hall had with Sonny Rollins. High-energy tracks such as “Just Say So” or “Free Standing” bristle with exaggerated reed slurps and snorts backed by modular bass lines and drum rumbles. Yet like a sailboat making its way down a waterway as a phalanx of motorboats roar by, the guitarist follows a singular passage interpolating relaxed chording when appropriate.

This construction usually involves reed mastication that shatters narratives into echoing pieces while the guitarist, with magician-like skill, uses accents and plucks to figuratively reconstitute the scraps into a solid object. On “Astronomy, Etcetera” for instance, focused traverse licks evolve into downwards strums to patch the thematic holes gashed by Siwula’s shamanistic cries. The effect becomes earth-bound as well as spacey. On the final and title track, like a lion finally roused by a challenger, Platz matches the saxophonist’s whistled echoes and flutter tonguing with slurred fingering, rugged string slashes and broken-octave pulses. The parts still meld into one sustainable climax.

If Modular Systems is Tai Chi than Low Light Filter is more like Zen meditation. Here Platz and Ishenko joined by drummer Delius Naujokaitis create what could be a standard jazz guitar trio session. But the masterful exposition is expressed through nuanced communication. From “Prefix”, the first track, the guitarist’s movement is nonchalant. Yet with the counterweight of drum rolls and walking bass, Platz is like Superman in his Clark Kent disguise, letting loose with echoing flamenco struts and cutting licks. These extensions are enough to add deadline intensity to the program, but not enough to overturn the organization of the Daily Planet newsroom.

Often trading lines with Ishenko, Platz is confident enough to work in a guitar manual’s worth of allusions. “Nomadic Tree” creates a carpet of forest greenery with baroque coloration from bowed bass and delicate guitar strokes. The wiggling electronic effects on “Semicircle” suggest that the circle is completed by an overdubbed guitar part with one string set scratching and the other vibrating. Furthermore the bassist’s positioned crunches set up a Platz solo that brings in allusions to pop-folk tunes of the ‘60s. Best of all is “Continuo”, whose bluesy melody would be a perfect soundtrack for a for a mid-century private eye series. Logical thematic variations are striking in themselves but revert back to the head, so it’s the musical equivalent of power mixed with suavity that these TV detectives projected. Straight up modulated jazz or the same with a free jazz overlay, Platz conquers both styles here.

Tracks: Modular: Just Say So; Your Night, My Day; Kiosk Land; Astronomy, Etcetera; Free Standing; Modular Systems; Raw Vision

Personnel: Blaise Siwula (alto, tenor and soprano saxophones); Jeff Platz (guitar); Dmitry Ishenko (bass) and Dave Miller (drums and percussion)

Tracks: Low: Prefix; Continuo; Duration; Daisuki; Semicircle; Time and Space Time; Nomadic Tree

Personnel: Low: Jeff Platz (guitar); Dmitry Ishenko (bass) and Dalius Naujokaitis (drums and percussion)

—For The New York City Jazz Record December 2016