Oboist & english horn player Kyle Bruckmann brought together this Chicaco group with Tim Daisy (drums), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Kurt Johnson (bass) and Jen Clare Paulson (viola) to integrate non-traditional instruments in the ever-evolving intersection of modern jazz.
Label: Red Toucan
Released in: Canada
"This music is an attempt to create space for my voice and my instrument within an ever-evolving tradition that hovers at the crossroads of other traditions. The intersection of jazz with what we'll call (for lack of a better term) European art music is by no means a new story - I make no claim to any shocking innovations. At best, I've succeeded in resolving some aesthetic issues in my own musical life. My background is essentially that of a classically trained oboist gradually awakening to the joys of improvisation. Though I have a deep respect for and love of the jazz tradition, it barely factors into my history as a player. Sporadic attempts to operate in that field have left me feeling dissatisfied and a little sheepish. Delving more deeply into "free improvisation" has proved to better suit my instrument and my temperament. But as my improvising has spiraled deeper into explorations of textural abstraction and quiet noise, I've come to feel I've been neglecting other, perhaps more conventional parameters of music: melody, harmony, counterpoint (as my teacher Ed Sarath would say, I wasn't getting enough "vitamin M"). The other primary outlet for my compositional energies, the experimental punk band Lozenge, is largely devoted to polyrhythmic propulsion and campy extremism; while there are certainly plenty of notes flying around, there's not much room for slow motion, subtlety, introspection, melancholy.
That's where Wrack comes in. At their most laissez-faire, these pieces are tributes to four colleagues whose playing I adore: structures that enable me to finagle my friends into improvising together in certain combinations at certain times. But where they are more determinate, the tunes are devised as an excuse to indulge my lyrical side. In my search for coherent contexts that permit a focus on pitch content, I found myself returning again and again to the language of classical modernism. The music of Bartok, Stravinsky, Messaien, and Webern lies very close to my heart, and forms the foundation of my understanding and enjoyment of how notes relate to each other in close proximity. The angularity and pungent clashes pilfered from these models will be readily apparent. More important than the referents themselves, of course, is the function they serve as springboards for some truly inspired playing."-Kyle Bruckman, from the liner notes
"How unique is the oboe in jazz and free improvisation? Pretty unique, both in terms of its distinct and idiosyncratic sonorities and in terms of the tiny number of people playing it. Chicago's Bruckmann is one of the leading practitioners of the difficult double-reed instrument, and on this recent release from the splendid Red Toucan imprint he demonstrates his chops as both improviser and composer.
For a highly unusual instrumentation - the leader on oboe and English horn, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Tim Daisy on percussion, Kurt Johnson on bass (who is in the experimental punk band Lozenge along with Bruckmann), and Jen Clare Paulson on viola - Bruckmann has constructed a half dozen tunes (plus a brief, plucky reharmonized version of Ornette's "Lonely Woman") which combine two seemingly improbable approaches: the post-Vandermark Chicagoan tendency to lace together shifting rhythmic bases and free sections, and a decided New Music influence (the classically trained Bruckmann names Bartok, Stravinsky, Messiaen, and Webern as household gods of his, but some reviewers have rightly detected the presence of Feldman and Scelsi) in the granular minimalism of pieces like "Elegy for a Boiled Frog" and "Mitigating Factors." Often as not, the band alternates dour drones with bustling grooves (such as the plangent melody strung across jumpy 7/4 in "Boiled Frog").
Bruckmann's pieces are patient constructs that morph slowly and ask the improvisers (who he's very generous about featuring - just dig the long Bishop/Paulson duet in "Extenuating Circumstances") to build along with the composition rather than blow over or through it. And if the overall mood is - as the opening track title suggests - "Rather Dour," there are more than enough tart improvisational moments and plenty of saucy drumming from Daisy to keep the session vigorous. The cranky, neo-industrial improvisations on "Gearshifts & Parentheticals" testify to that.
One of the finest examples of Wrack's ability to combine turned-up flame with clear-headed attention to texture and space is the brash "Sins of Omission." Bishop tussles with Johnson and Daisy, with energy to spare. But you've got to feel that this band's heart is in the long textural studies like "Mitigating Factors," where the players get to test their extended techniques out even as they work from space and (relative) silence. Daisy, in particular, is a wonder at tuned percussion on this track.
Wrack should be taken seriously, not only as a thoroughly enjoyable album in its own right, but as a document of exciting new directions from some of Chicago's best players. Highly recommended."Jason Bivins, Dusted Reviews
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Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
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Label: Red Toucan
Catalog ID: RT 9323
Squidco Product Code: 11072
Packaging: Jewel Tray
Recorded on May 31st & June 1st, 2003 at Acme Recording, Chicago by Devin Davis.
Kylr Bruckmann-oboe, English horn
Jen Clare Paulson-viola
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1. Rather Dour 6:17
2. Elegy For A Boiled Frog 11:23
3. Extenuating Circumstances 11:10
4. Sins Of Ommission 6:15
5. Mitigating Factors 13:04
6. Gearshifts & Parentheticals 9:05
7. Lonely Woman 3:47