June 17, 2019
Pi Recordings P179
By Ken Waxman
Reaching an elevated trajectory following her last CD, B.C.-born, New York-based tenor saxophone/flutist Anna Webber aided by a seasoned septet, re-conceptualizes into new compositions impressions of 20th Century composers’ percussion works.
Percussiveness not percussion is the major focus, even though her studio reassembling of Ches Smith’s echoing tympani on the Felmanesque “King of Denmark II” are suitably staggering. Mostly though Smith sticks to drums and vibraphone to provide the precise clamor and ringing clatter that swing alongside Jacob Garchik’s emotional trombone flow; place-marking stops or sweeping glissandi from Christopher Hoffman’s cello and Chris Tordini’ bass; pulsing chromatics from pianist Matt Mitchell; and stylistic chirps or snarls from Webber and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Jeremy Viner.
Oddly separated on opposite ends of the disc, three variations on “King of Denmark” and two of “Korē” are equally striking. Sparkling piano chords mixed with squirming saxophone riffs build up to a heraldic crescendo on the first part of “King of Denmark”. Meanwhile Mitchell’s intermittent comping, percussion breaks and audacious plunger vocalizing from Garchik’s trombone bring passion to the Xenakis-inspired “Korē I”. Webber even manages to extract a melodic groove from “Array”, a homage to Babbitt. Her delicate flute whistles are challenged by precision trombone glides and clarinet swells, until the piece become harder-edged with Mitchell’s keyboard cadenzas, but still maintains unexpected warmth.
Overall the performances, which also touch on Cage, Varése and Stockhausen influences, aren’t merely turned clockwise, but highly original creations directed by Webber.
-for The Whole Note June 2019