Gregorio's third release on hatology renews the reedman's explorations of Jazz tradition, this time out in a trio setting with the versatile assistance of two worldclass improvisers. The method which the players both refer to and create on the spot is, on the surface, based in the chamber Jazz regularities of reeds and strings. The results however are a far cry from some of the more monotonous experiments of the third stream. Rather than suffocating under the weight of overarrangement, the trio spins an enticing web of fragile sound structures where what isn't being played is almost as important as what is; space and timing eclipse volume and density.
Though the disc bears Gregorio's name as leader, the music is an equal creation of all three participants. Maneri and Karayorgis bring their fertile improvisational ideas to the fore on interpretations of a series of skeletal swing themes. The themes often serve simply as reoccurring springboards for collective improvisation. The approach is most evident on "Woodchopper's Nightmare," where clarinet, violin and piano converge in a simmering swing stew, replete with truncated readings of at least five obscure themes originally penned by several integral members of Woody Herman's First Herd.
The disc is rife with astounding displays of Gregorio's advanced embouchure. He coaxes an airy, almost ethereal roundness from his clarinet reed, which is frequently coupled with carefully controlled overblowing.There are echoes of Giuffre in his technique but his sound isn't overtly derivative. At points the gentle pattering clicks of his clarinet keys invoke the illusion of a ghostly fourth player on muted percussion following his lead. In contrast, his tenor favors a deep, dry tone with lots of breathy resonance and is heard to best effect on the gorgeous "Chu's Spectre."
There are plenty of opportunities to hear the other two players shine brightly as well. I can never tire of Maneri's molten musings on his instrument. In his nimble hands, his customconstructed violins are able to replicate registers deep into the cello range as well as pitches high into the opposite end of the string spectrum. Maneri's uncanny ability to stretch string harmonics into the upper regions of audible sound is best illustrated on Gregorio's "Slipped Fifths" where his sharplyetched bowing speeds up into sawing harmonics and eventually, suspended silence. He cleaves bright swathes of reverberating sound on the curiously titled "Study in Scarlet" and his staccato string plucks are heard most prominently on the opening "Crimson Mountain." Karayorgis is also an accomplished improviser and his thoughtful ruminations fit perfectly into the trio's collective voice. "Lost Weekend" provides an ample avenue for his more forceful piano work, and his fingers pound against the keys with practiced agility.
The highlights of this disc are many and the end result is an assemblage of explorations that perfectly bridges the structural traditions of the past with the spontaneous creative energies of the present. The disc is a forum for three unique voices to stretch out and explore at length the push and pull between sound and silence. I'm looking forward to their further discoveries.
Derek Taylor, Cadence Magazine, Vol. 25 No. 7 July 1999
It's odd that A MASTER OF POSTMODERN IMPROVISATION RECASTS THE SONGBOOK OF OLDSCHOOL VIBRAHARPIST RED NORVO. It's even stranger that these interpretations extend the rarefied sound of the Jimmy Giuffre 3's chamberjazz meditations. What's more, the connection seems to stem from an unlikely source: trend setting West Coast band leader Shorty Rogers, a postWar hepcat who worked with both Norvo and Giuffre, and whose swinging sophistication was a revelation to Gregorio as a teen.
Like Giuffre's classic band, Gregorio's Red Cube(d) combo is also a drummerless trio. Gregorio's features extraordinarily sensitive violinist Mat Maneri and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis. The group's relatively quiet approach in no way belies its incisive power. Gregorio, who plays clarinet and tenor sax on this session, steers the group through spacious readings of Norvo songs ("1234 Jump," "Lost Weekend") and originals based on Norvo's songbook, style, and vibe ("Slipped Fifths," "Woodchopper's Nightmare"), all of which deliver equal doses of subtlety and punch. For example, while each instrumentalist fills the silent spaces of "1234 Jump" with an almost delicate poinhllishc snippet of melody, the tuneful fragments weave together to form long supple, complete statements, which are then upended at surprising moments by the pianist's hornsectionlike punctuations.
Deeply focused collective improvs ("Ana's Lullaby," "Crimson Mountain," "A Study in Scarlet") are done in a similar stylistic vein as the originals and covers, which, more or less, implies the conventional concept of swing via the rhythmic bounce between moments of silence and smoothly clipped, melodic phrases. Not unlike the classic solos by Norvo or Giuffre, this approach compels the listener to hang on to every note in anticipation of the next flashing resolution.
This is a Iyrical masterwork that mines a deep history of jazz evolution without a hint of didacticism.
Sam Prestianni, Jazziz October 1999
encompassing subtlety and delicacy of touch, Guillermo Gregorio, Pandelis
Karayorgis, and Mat Maneri range over the musical spectrum on this disc. Without
the theatrics of Sun Ra, but with a kindred sensibility, the trio turns from
the unstintingly abstract "Crimson Mountain" to Fletcher Henderson's
"Red Dust." Gregorio's clarinet catapults back in time for a moment
- leading into an improvisation of the same prickly abstract, low-voltage
quality as that which graced the first track. The most riveting action comes
toward the end of the track, when the trio works Henderson's theme into the
framework of the abstractions they've been exploring.
Guillermo Gregorio has a unique bead on the gray area between post-serialist composition and cool school-informed chamber jazz. The Argentine reed player understands that implication is the communicative strong suit of both genres. Subsequently, serious attention must be paid to Gregorio's music, where understatement resonates with a quiet power.
On Red Cube(d), Gregorio connects aspects of the swing era, West Coast jazz, and the third stream, with a fluid ensemble approach to improvisation. His trio with pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and violinist Mat Maneri is the perfect unit for such an endeavor; like Gregorio, they both place a premium on concision, and have the requisite idiomatic moorings to give fragmentary statements an allusive, ember-like glow.
In his liner notes, Gregorio recounts Billy Bauer's story of
how he and Flip Phillips would freely improvise in their off hours in hotel
rooms, avoiding noise-related confrontations by throwing a blanket over themselves
to muffle the music. This is an apt starting point to conceptualize the sound
of Gregorio's trio-a hushed blend of voices, a spontaneous exchange at point-blank
range. While Gregorio has previously recorded several compelling clarinet
performances, Red Cube(d) features his most cogent outings on tenor saxophone
to date. He invokes essences of Phillips, Chu Berry, and Lester Young, with
One of the most interesting things about this solo date of
Guillermo Gregorio — late of Franz Koglmann's Pipetet - is how similar
his original music sounds to Mat Maneri's. There is no doubt they are kindred
spirits, given that they both hold contemporary classical music and jazz in
a double bind, forcing them ever closer together despite the individual resistance
of each music. Both are also keen improvisers who believe in the power of
understatement and rounded edges — and Maneri is a violinist! All of
this said, this is a curiously beautiful recording. Maybe it's the abstraction
and montage technique used on Gregorio's originals such as "Slipped Fifths,"
"Woodchopper's Nightmare," or "Red Skies," in which the
strange becomes familiar, or the melodic. Or perhaps it's asymmetrical, dissonant
readings of the classics here, such as Fletcher Henderson's "Red Dust,"
Red Norvo and Flip Phillips' "1-2-3-Jump!," or "Chu's Specter:
Ghost of a Chance" written by Bing Crosby and cohorts. No matter, the
record is somewhat disorienting, though charmingly so. A lot will be made
of how new this all is. What is new is that a record by a trio such as this
would be made at all. Here are three very understated payers, performing a
difficult brand of musical hijinks, where improvisation, compositions, and
different classifications attempt to become one, rather than co-exist as comfortable
opposites. The odd timbres and overtones created by Maneri's violin playing
counterpoint to both Gregorio and Karayorgis simultaneously are lovely, as
are Gregorio's instincts: he knows just when to let the melody through between
harmonies — which shift — and improvisation. It's obvious he longs
to be an arranger — and should be. But this is music that is tender
yet not mature enough to speak with a full voice. It's a good bet that the
well will get much deeper before too long.
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