|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention Matthew Sperry
Both an affirmation of the benefits of unstructured first-time improvisation and a threnody of sorts for a fallen comrade, Supermodel Supermodel succeeds on its two levels.
Recorded in early 2003, in Oakland, Calif., the 13 instant compositions mark the initial collaboration between London-based trombonist Gail Brand and a group of Bay area musicians guitarist John Shiurba, bassist Matthew Sperry, percussionist Gino Robair and laptopist Tim Perkins. Not everyone even Brand plays on every track of this 71-minute session, with three pieces recorded shortly after the initial dates in tribute to Sperry, who was killed in an auto accident in the interim.
An unshowy rhythm player, the versatile Sperry, who recorded with shakuhachi player Philip Gelb, composer/accordionist Pauline Oliveros and reedist Wolfgang Fuchs among others, adds some characteristic EuroImprov-style clinks and clanks here. But his skill lies in helping make this a CD of supremely group music,
Maneuvering his percussion collection, which includes a faux dax, horns, Styrofoam and an e-bow snare as well as drums, Robair takes a similar stance. Rattling and stroking his cymbals, resonating vibes-like tones and ratcheting, scraping and reverberating different sorts of friction from his trap set, the percussionist is part of the ever-shifting aural landscape, not an accompaniment to it. Surmounting the measured pitter-patter and bounces of Sperry and Robair, not to mention Shiurbas flanged lines and snapping strings, however, both Brands and Perkins timbres prominently protrude from the mix.
On each of the eight tracks on which he plays, the electronics manipulator outputs specially designed signals of various forms. There are wave form oscillations, curving overtones, intermittent buzzes and scratchy pulses. For her part the trombonist, who has been part of bassist Simon H. Fells quintet and recorded with guitarist Derek Bailey isnt fazed by electronics or ever-shifting rhythmic pulses. Her band Lunge usually features two players who extend their keyboard and violin textures with electronics. On the one Brand-Perkins duo here, she constructs a shuddering horizontal line on top of his triggered sound envelopes, then growls and snorts through the resonating burbles as if they are transparent.
Situations build more organically on pieces like Stephanie Stephanie and Iman Iman, inexplicably named like the other tunes for world-class fashion models. The later matches cymbal cracks, chromatic guitar licks and sliding stops from the bassist with wiggling electronic oscillations. Taking all this in stride, Brand builds a series of sensuous capillary purrs into a climax of flutter-tongued plunger tones that surmount focused guitar runs and droning electronics.
The former tune finds her using circular treble tones and lip-blubbering plunger digressions to dovetail with percussion slaps and the bare hint of arco bowing. Elsewhere her jocular brays and snorts mesh with rapid knob-twisting to germinate quivering parallel reverberations.
Sperrys unexpected death means that this one-off aggregation cant be reconstituted. The CD itself, however, is both an impressive memorial, as well as a bittersweet souvenir of Brands and the other players in-the-moment interactions.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Naomi Naomi 2. Christy Christy 3. Christie Christie 4. Twiggy Twiggy 5. Tyra Tyra 6. Stephanie Stephanie 7. Cindy Cindy 8. Iman Iman 9. Kate Kate 10. Kathy Kathy 11. Elle Elle 12. Linda Linda 13. Claudia Claudia
Personnel: Gail Brand (trombone); John Shiurba (guitar); Matthew Sperry (bass and preparations); Gino Robair (percussion, faux dax, horns, Styrofoam, e-bow snare) and Tim Perkins (laptop)
October 10, 2006
Balance Point Acoustics BPA 008
Ratascan BRD 052
Part of the accelerating interchange between experimental musicians from Europe and the United States, multi-reedman Wolfgang Fuchs of Berlin has become a regular transatlantic commuter.
Known for his leadership of the King ÃbÃ¼ OrchestrÃ¼ and the all-reed Holz FÃ¼r Europa group, these discs find Fuchs heading even further out. Thatâs a geographic reference â for the CDs were recorded with two different sets of associates in Californiaâs Bay area during a productive visit by Fuchs in 2003.
On SIX FUCHS, the bass clarinetist and sopranino saxophonist is the only European present. His Yank buddies are percussionist Gino Robair, a collaborator with other advanced reedists like Britainâs John Butcher; Tim Perkis, a founding member of computer music group The Hub, manipulating electronics; Tom Djll on trumpet, pocket cornet, balloon [!] and hog caller [!!], who has worked with reed explorers such as Bostonâs Bhob Rainey; guitarist John Shiurba, who has played with just about everyone in the advanced Bay area scene; and bassist Matthew Sperry. Sadly, Sperry was killed in a bicycle accident shortly after this recording was made. He was already advanced enough to work regularly with folks such as composer/accordionist Pauline Oliveros.
Fellow bassist Damon Smith, who plays with many of the same musicians as Sperry did, is the catalyst behind THE HAPPYMAKERS. Local reedist Jacob Lindsay, who regularly is in a combo with Smith and vocalist Aurora Josephson, is featured on Ab, Bb and bass clarinets. Adding to the European contingent is Serge Baghdassarians on guitar and electronics and Boris Baltschun on electronics, both of whom have recorded with advanced French saxophonist Michel Doneda.
Each CD is memorable in a subtly different fashion. THE HAPPYMAKERS scores because is explores the possibilities inherent in 11 short improvisations based on transformation of energy between electronic and acoustic textures. Electro-acoustic as well, SIX FUCHS string-reed-electronics interface is expanded with Robairâs energized surfaces and Djllâs brassy oral additions. Limited to six tracks, the sextet has up to 18Â½ minutes in which to expand every available nuance.
âButtery Consortâ, with unrolls at that length, mixes the rough with the tender. Quivering reverb, which sounds as if a dull knife blade is pressing against the strings, joins with horn tones which suggest both men are trying to blow through metal sheets held in front of their bells. On the other hand, Fuchsâs temperate, chalumeau breaths and Sperryâs legato stops are made uneven by the application of shrill, rasping loops from the electronics and bubbling slurs from the pocket cornet.
As the oscillating reverb scours sound in the background, the horns unite in broken counterpoint, with Fuchs, on sopranino, trilling aviary timbres as Djll deflates a balloon in the foreground. Sperryâs sawing jettes are reduced to near inaudibility as a distorted guitar amp buzz combines with horn textures resembling comb and tissue paper drones to buzz resonating microtones into note clusters as the electronic sideband gongs extend this even further. A final variation finds growled reed obbligatos, possibly made even more obtuse by electronics, dissolving into throaty colored air mixed with sul ponticello bowing from the bassist.
Meanwhile, the nearly 12-minute âAn Illegible Memoryâ begins with an ululating but unattached glissando from the bass clarinet as well as quivers from the surfaces. A brassy downwards slur from Djll accentuates the rippling, metallic properties of all the instruments that are displayed on top of Sperryâs tremolo bass lines. Accumulating timbres make way for droning fretless guitar slides, strident vibration from the sopranino as well as buzzy spits from the trumpeter. Robair plugs the available spaces with side band resonation, as murmuring pulses slowly reveal themselves as flanged tones from Shiurbaâs guitar and subtle leaks from the electronics and preparations. These escalate into buzzing guitar interface, wah-wahs from the brass, pinched snorts from the bass clarinet, bass string sweeps and gong-like ring modulator clanging.
Other sounds on tap include abrasive screeches that could come from guitar strings or preparations, moist balloon scrapes, vibraharp resonating suggestions from the percussionist, pulsating sequences created by guitar delay, watery brass mouthpiece kisses plus focused slurs and cuckoo clock warbling from the bass clarinet â not to mention barnyard cackles from the sopranino.
This aural miasma also enlivens THE HAPPYMAKERS. But lacking supplementary brass and percussion interjections and limiting the improvisations to 11 shorter tracks restricts the available textures and foreshortens some idea development,
Interesting enough, some of the strategies the five follow on âMa(r)ker#10â, the more-than-eight-minutes longest track, seem to reflect those which succeed on the other disc. With two reeds, however, possibilities abound for sounding different textures simultaneously. On top of hissing electronic flutters, one reedist begins by expelling delicate breaths until they gather into chalumeau register tones, while the other quacks and flutter tongues. Shifting through the static, broken cadences allow individual solos to follow one another sequentially. Suddenly, as Smith shuffle bows up and down his strings, one of the reedists produces a rooster crow, while the other buries his notes in stentorian territory. Harsh electronic pulses mix with splattering reed pitch vibrations â
some circular breathed, others sounded for split seconds. Coda is a wavering tone from the guitar amp and a single toot from one clarinet.
This sort of basso exhalation is also a feature of âMa(r)ker#5â until both clarinets combine to expel colored air and reed bite in the highest range. Around them, programmed waveforms, singular guitar licks and powerful scrapes on the belly of the bass push the sound downward to muted pitches again. For a finale, flutter-tongued reed lines and reverberating modulations combine than fade away.
More upfront here than Sperry is on SIX FUCHS, Smith fulfills his polyrhythmic role, manipulating spiccato swipes, low-down resonation, col legno harshness and sul ponticello squeals into intense energy to either accompany or encourage the soloists. Recorded more upfront, the equipment manages to pick up every one of his wallops and jettes as it does reed tones that range from legato to staccato and from so-called legit to indefinable.
At points, it almost seems as if pickups had been forced down the clarinets gullets so the woody strains produced take on extra vibrations as theyâre played. Hocketing and multiphonics allow Lindsay and Fuchs to engender sounds both from the hollow body tubes and through reed percussion on the axeâs outsides. Electrionics, extended techniques or merely good recording also allow the reedists to often thicken their arpeggio undulations, crackling peeps and tongue slaps into wider, near bagpipe tones. Hooked up with computer-generated drones, reed and motor energy is also expressed polyphonically.
While SIX FUCHS may have a slight edge over THE HAPPYMAKERS, followers of this style could be made happy with either CD. Both offer a sound picture of recent Bay area improvisation and suggest Fuchs should continue traveling and collaborating.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Six: 1. An Impish Onus in the Vogue 2. (Loosely) Second Iridescence 3. Buttery Consort 4. An Illegible Memory 5. Ingot (Teacup) Minstrelsy 6. A Touch of Grandsire, Up Wrong
Personnel: Six: Tom Djll (trumpet, pocket cornet, balloon and hog caller); Wolfgang Fuchs (bass clarinet and sopranino saxophone); John Shiurba (guitar); Matthew Sperry (bass and preparations); Gino Robair (energized surfaces); Tim Perkis (electronics)
Track Listing: Happymakers: 1. Ma(r)ker#1 2. Ma(r)ker#2 3. Ma(r)ker#3 4. Ma(r)ker#4 5. Ma(r)ker#5 6. Ma(r)ker#6 7. Ma(r)ker#7 8. Ma(r)ker#8 9. Ma(r)ker#9 10. Ma(r)ker#10 11.Ma(r)ker#11
Personnel: Happymakers: Wolfgang Fuchs (bass clarinet and sopranino saxophone); Jacob Lindsay (Ab, Bb and bass clarinets); Serge Baghdassarians (guitar and electronics); Damon Smith (bass); Boris Baltschun (electronics)
September 19, 2005
Spool Arc SPA402
Unlimited Sedition ULS01
Glimpses into the inventive gray matter of composer/guitarist John Shiurba, these CDs made seven months apart in the same Oakland, Calif.-studio, show him and a nearly identical group of sidefolk exposing two leitmotifs.
The mathematically titled 5x5 1.1=M is a pure instrumental effort mixing composed and spontaneous material with echoes of Anthony Braxtons Ghost Trance Music (GTM) -- not surprising since Shiurba has worked with the influential reedman. More daring, TRIPLICATE extends the basic band on both CDs -- reedists Matt Ingalls and Dan Plonsey, bassist Matthew Sperry and percussionist Gino Robair -- by adding trumpeter Tom Djill, trombonist Tom Yoder and more critically the voices of Lara Bruckmann and Morgan Guberman. The guitarist only conducts on the latter, though he does play on the first disc.
All and all, Shiurba -- who has also played in art rock bands and for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company -- has a more appropriate forum with which to express his ideas with the larger group. Thats as long as you hear the vocalists as other instruments and not try to impute meaning to the often Dadaist lyrics of the five original texts interpreted here. Paradoxically, this session was recorded before the other, and while 5x5 1.1=M doesnt disappoint, TRIPLICATE seems that much more innovative and original.
Henry Threadgill and Braxton have also dabbled in vocal-oriented work, but here the words appear secondary to the soundsinging prowess exhibited by both vocalists. Lyric soprano Bruckmann also sings in cabaret and musical comedy settings and with the Oakland Lyric Opera, while tenor Guberman, is also a double bass player who has worked in one or the other role with British trombonist Gail Brand and local saxophonist Andrew Voigt. At times, the timbres of the linked vocals sound midway between what youd hear at a New music recital and at a performance of an experimental off-Broadway musical. There are times however though that the sopranos voice arches with such classical legitimacy that she could be understudying the lead role in Bellinis Norma.
Bruckmanns warbling soprano tones are put to good use on Rita, the final and longest -- almost 14 minutes -- track, which also has the shortest text. Dramatically vocalizing the atmospheric theme, she develops the tunes as the meshed polyphonic horns create near bagpipe tempos behind her.
After her voice meshes first with Tom Yoders sonorous trombone then Ingallss trilling clarinet, Gubermans contributions include sluicing single syllables that turn into wild throat gurgles during the tunes recapitulation. Combing tones, Bruckmann then twitters as Guberman seems to be alternately emulating reverent davening and Germanic double talk. Following an inventive drum solo from Robair -- a favorite of reedists like Braxton and Briton John Butcher -- every other player reenters for the climax. The initial theme is reprised with chromatic horn runs and close harmony from the vocalists.
Even more surrealistic is Trainging long Hauling-Dazed [sic]. Dont even try to aurally follow the poetics. Instead concentrate on how the swelling and deflating vocal textures mesh with the lowing trombone line, irregular cymbal and drumbeats and smeared clarinet glissandi from both Ingalls and Plonsey. At certain points distinguishing the voices from among the contrapuntal percussion rumbles, trombone plunges and steady bass line is difficult. At points, Bruckmann cries and Guberman purrs, than a cappella appear to be reciting the alphabet. Rising up from beneath cow bell whacks, plunger trombone emphasis and trilled clarinet lines, Guberman gradually introduces scary monster-like cries, joined first by Bruckmann, then by double-stopped, spiccato bowing from Sperry and tongue stops from the horns.
Bedlam-like mumbles, operatic recital screams and undifferentiated high-pitched squeaks, spits and squeal from both singers are heard elsewhere. So are exaggerated plunger exercises from the brass plus overblowing and metallic whistles from the aviary-pitched reeds. That is, of course, when the chalumeau-pitched clarinets and heraldic trumpet and trombone arent allied into a resemblance to a medieval brass choir. Robair supplies cymbal sizzle and drum rolls as part of his output. At other points the versatile percussionist produces shimmering marimba accents or brief synthesizer oscillations.
His presence is germane to 5x5 1.1=M as is Sperrys. In his foreshortened life -- he was killed in a bicycle accident at 34 in 2003 -- the bassist engendered as much respect for his skill from his contemporaries as another short-lived West Coast bassist -- Scott LaFaro -- did from his. Still, the biggest difference on 5x5 1.1=M is the absence of vocals and brass and the addition of Shiurbas abrasive guitar licks, which often include full utilization of his distortion pedal.
What is off-putting however is the written GTM-like interludes that link each of the six compositions. Talented enough improvisers, the players dont need these connective interjections that seem to exist on a contradictory plane than the other material.
For instance after the introductory harmonic blending at the top of 1.1.4, the piece evolves through guitar reverb, scratched bass lines and scraped ratchet-like percussion tones. Soon, the flanged, finger picked guitar licks intersect with faint bagpipe-like sounds from Plonseys oboe, resting on top of more abrasive reed tones in broken counterpoint. As the oboes output takes on an Arabic mussette quality, and Ingalls produces slurred coloratura tones, Shiurbas fuzztones and distortions get louder, and are joined by irregular drum pulses, screeching fiddle glissandi and woody spiccato bass. Sperry then creates ponticello double stops and clarinets twitter, while the fretman frails banjo-like timbres.
Screaming daxophone-reminiscent ejaculations, distortion pedal splashes and reverberating rock-like guitar lines are the leaders contributions elsewhere. Oboe chirrups, chickadee peeping from higher-pitched reed and stentorian drum rumbles mixnmatch in other sections which are alternately ferocious or fey. Finally, the various instrumental tones coalesce for a recapitulation of earlier textures in 1.1.5, a miniature coda and addendum. Before that however, real discontent sets in around the time of 1.1.2, where quasi Braxtonian passages presage inward turning strings plus reed and percussion pulses that dont seem to go anywhere. The only liveliness comes from buzz-saw amp noises.
Shiurba has proven his compositional talents with these releases. Considering both were recorded in 2002, one would expect that there are more surprises to be heard in his more recent music.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 5x5: 1. Intro 2. 1.1.1 3. 1.1.2 4. 1.1.3 5. 1.1.4 6. 1.1.5
Personnel: 5x5: Matt Ingalls (clarinet and violin); Dan Plonsey (alto saxophone, alto clarinet, oboe and violin); John Shiurba (guitar); Matthew Sperry (bass); Gino Robair (percussion and violin)
Track Listing: Triplicate: 1. Adobe 2. Trainging long Hauling-Dazed 3. short reels 4. I Knew You Falling 5. Rita
Personnel: Triplicate: Tom Djill (trumpet); Tom Yoder (trombone); Matt Ingalls (B-clarinet); Dan Plonsey (alto saxophone, Eb clarinet, oboe and violin); Matthew Sperry (bass); Gino Robair (percussion, marimba and analog synthesizer); Lara Bruckmann and Morgan Guberman (voices); John Shiurba (conductor and composition)
December 27, 2004
Unlimited Sedition ULS02
Organized following the exhortation from saxophonist Dan Plonseys former teacher Anthony Braxton to write music for the next millennium, the 18-piece Daniel Popsicle orchestra is notable for both for what it plays and what it represents.
Officially titled Daniel Popsicle Music of El Cerrito Volume 2A Moving About, Humming, Still Our Flowers Are Blooming, Under the Old Portcullis, [whew!] the CD shows how a band of committed musicians interpret an original suite of 17 interlocking parts. Drawing on the talents of a clutch of Bay area players, the contrapuntal composition unfolds with practically no solos, but a polyphonic tension between an ever-changing melody and cyclic short repeating patterns.
Sound familiar? Its the first demonstration that a variation of Braxtons Ghost Trance (GTM) music is being adopted by other composers. Cleveland-born, but a resident of El Cerrito, Calif., near Berkley, for years, Plonsey, who plays C-melody saxophone, oboe and harmonica and has an M.A. in composition from nearby Mills College. A concert organizer as well as a member of many local bands, he has also played and recorded with Braxtons Ghost Trance ensembles. Daniel Popsicle was organized in September 1999 and PORTCULLIS is a record of its work circa 2001.
With compositional fragments ranging from as short as 23 seconds to slightly more than nine minutes, its hard to comment on the piece except as a whole. Similarly, the only soloist who can be positively identified is Plonsey himself. At different times his C-melody saxophone lines tartly cut through the dense orchestration with seconds of swing and he contributes some off-kilter harmonica playing on L2. Theres also a polyharmonic vocal interjection at the beginning of that piece that combine medieval gymel tones and vocalese. Plonsey is the voice listed, but it sounds as if theres another as well. Often Carol Adees strident piccolo provides the top line above reed smears and repetitive percussion lines, but thats color, not a solo.
Other influences range from the electrified rock music/serious music dichotomy pioneered by Frank Zappa, flailing mountain music picking, faint echoes of Phil Spectors Wall of Sound string-sweetened arrangements, some clunky rhythm guitar vamps and diminutive big band call-and-response among the different sections of the band. Early on theres an interlude thats reminiscent of Rebetika, or the so-called Greek blues from the saz or cumbus. Moreover on I and M you could swear that parts of an Eastern European, czarda dance rhythm makes an appearance.
Plonseys musical reflection on the relationships of plants and animals and wisdom and foolishness differ significantly from Braxtons, however the tension engendered in his pieces is also broken by some release. A mid-range climax of sorts is reached on F and G when oscillating electric lines combine with single-note extension from the guitars.
One guitarist -- Zephyr Adee, John Shiurba, John Schott or Randy Porter -- is also responsible for the climax and finale, which leads to the compositions resolution on O. Floating over repeated reed riffs, his reverberating BB King-style lead guitar works provides a resolution for all that came before.
Now that three years have passed since this CD was recorded, it will be interesting to see what Daniel Popsicle has come up with in the interim.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Intra. 2. A 3. B 4. C 5. D 6. E 7. F 8. G 9. H 10. I 11. J 12. K 13. L 14. L2 15. M 16. N 17.O
Personnel: Tom Djll (trumpet); Tom Yoder, Tim Madden (trombones); Carol Adee (piccolo); Michael Zelner (clarinet); Dan Plonsey (C-melody saxophone; oboe, voice, harmonica); Zephyr Adee, John Shiurba and John Schott (guitars); Randy Porter (guitar, saz, cumbus, gong and porterphone); Tom Swafford (violin); Sarah Willner (viola); Danielle Degruttola (cello); Erling Wold, Lynn Wold (keyboards); Ashley Adams, Matthew Sperry (basses); Mike Pukish (percussion)
December 6, 2004
JOHN BUTCHER/GINO ROBAIR/MATTHEW SPERRY
Spool Line SPL 109
British sonic explorer John Butcher is one woodwind player who has worked assiduously on discovering every last sound he can pull out of the innards of his horns, most notably when he produces a solo session.
Mouthpiece mavens may drool when given something to like that to absorb, but others may find his interactions with other players easier to swallow. You won't think his skilled saxophone spewing all wet if you can hear it amalgamating with the deft improvising of other musicians.
This CD is particularly noteworthy since Yanks make up the other two thirds of this trio. Oakland, Calif.-based Gino Robair has internalized the British multi vibrational concept of folks like AMM's Eddie Prevost, and uses a melange of percussion to comment on the proceedings, rather than functioning as a timekeeper or a rhythm machine. Matthew Sperry of Seattle, Wash. has worked singly and together with Butcher and Robair since the late 1990s, and brings a thorough understanding of the bass as a solo as well as an accompanying instrument to the session.
Preeminently group music, 12 MILAGRITOS gives the saxophonist the proper canvas on which to express his reed brush strokes. Not that he's the only artist here. Like sculptor's associates who simultaneously work on different parts of a statute to produce the three-dimensional representation, each man contributes to the concoction, negating the hierarchical concept of soloist with rhythm section. Often the result is one of those improvisations where the precise sound source for many notes is difficult to determine. Most of the 12 pieces unroll at a frantic speed, yet with every gesture microscopically clear.
Playing either tenor or soprano saxophone, Butcher constructs little dramas out of slap tonguing, false fingering and foghorn-like reverberations. Frequently his tone could be all encompassing enough to seemingly fill an entire wind tunnel by itself; other times it may dissolve into random reed buzzes, or even what sounds like a factory gate whistle or extended passages on comb-and-tissue-paper. This way he's frequently not only able to play the note, but suggest its undertones and overtones as well.
Ignoring straight time and much of his kit, Robair concentrates on scraping his cymbals with a bow, producing triangle-like vibrations, striking wood blocks, and knocking out subterranean percussion rumbles. Sticking in most cases to the lower register of his instrument and the arco mode, Sperry creates counterpoint to the others. At times his attack is so forceful that you envision the bass bridge shaking with his exertion.
Although sometimes Sperry seems to be banging his fist to or palm to create percussive tones from the bass, he didn't have to knock on wood for luck on this date. With three experienced improvisers on tap, the entire project not only commands attention, but also hangs together as if the group performs every day as an ensemble.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Ave 2. Nervio 3. Labio 4. Cerebro 5. Bizaro 6. Codo 7. Garganta 8. Mano 9. Brazo 10. Pelo 11. Dedo 12. Pie
Personnel: John Butcher (soprano and tenor saxophones); Matthew Sperry (bass and preparations); Gino Robair (percussion, bows and motors, ebow snare, faux dax)
March 8, 2001