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Remembering Shaking Ray Levis' Dennis Palmer in a duo between percussionist Gino Robair and pianist Thollem McDonas on Rhodes and analog effects, a mind-bending display of technical brilliance and unexpected twists and turns, a fitting tribute to the late SRL keyboardist.

McDonas, Thollem / Gino Robair
Trio Music Minus One (For Dennis Palmer)

McDonas, Thollem / Gino Robair: Trio Music Minus One (For Dennis Palmer) (Setola Di Maiale)

Label: Setola Di Maiale    
Released in: Italy    

"In 2013 Thollem and Gino recorded this beautiiful album at Nicholas Taplin's Post-Consumer Studios in Oakland, CA. Every man and woman who loves music and specifically the broad spectrum of experimental music, knows these two great artists.

Gino Robair is an American composer, improvisor, drummer, and percussionist. In his own work (as a soloist and in improvisation ensembles), he plays prepared/modified percussion, analog synthesizer, ebow and prepared piano, theremin, and bowed objects (polystyrene, customized/broken cymbals, faux daxophone, metal). Robair is also one of the "25 innovative percussionists" included in the book Percussion Profiles (SoundWorld, 2001). He has recorded with Tom Waits, Anthony Braxton, Terry Riley, Lou Harrison, John Butcher, Derek Bailey, Peter Kowald, Otomo Yoshihide, the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, among many others. In addition, Robair has performed with John Zorn, Fred Frith, Eddie Prevost, Wadada Leo Smith and many more. In addition, he runs Rastascan Records, a label devoted to creative music. As a writer about music technology, Robair has contributed to Mix, Remix, Guitar Player, and Electronic Musician (EM) magazine, where he was an editor for 10 years. He is the author of two books, including The Ultimate Personal Recording Studio (Thompson, 2006).

Thollem is a peripatetic pianist/keyboardist, comproviser, singer-songwriter, educator, and social critic. His musical compositions and performances range from post-classical, to free jazz, to noise to punk rock. He has been touring perpetually throughout North America and Europe since 2006, performing solo works and collaborating with an array of musicians, dancers, and filmmakers. A brief sample of his many collaborations include Stefano Scodanibbio, Pauline Oliveros, William Parker, Nels Cline, Mike Watt and many more. He is the founding director of Estamos Ensemble, a project bringing together improvisers and composers across the Mexico/U.S. border, as well as groups as diverse as Tsigoti, Bloom Ensemble, Soar Trio, Magimc, Hand To Man Band, and Bad News From Houston. Thollem has been dedicated to the acoustic piano for most of his life with 40 albums to date on 17 different vanguard labels recently leaping into the electric sphere with an array of new releases. This follows Thollem's recent release on Setola di Maiale. The View From Up (SM2600) with Daniele Roccato, Marco Rogliano and Francesco Dillon was released in February.

Ernie Paik wrote a memory on Dennis Palmer, to whom the disc is dedicated. "It's easy to talk about Dennis Palmer - musician, artist, educator and to me and others, a close friend - in terms of his accomplishments, among them co-founding the Shaking Ray Levis performing group with Bob Stagner and the 28-year-strong non-profit The Shaking Ray Levi Society, before passing away on February 15, 2013. What isn't so easy is articulating this complicated person who measurably made his home town of Chattanooga more vibrant, more benevolent, and yes, a little weirder, and often had a profound influence on those he encountered, in all spheres, and not necessarily just those in the music and art worlds. Dennis often spoke of "living in the moment," which ties in with his love of musical improvisation but has resonance far beyond the arts. "Living in the moment" is being open-minded, receptive, flexible and inventive. One of the most impressive improvisers I've experienced, his creativity overflowed, taking inspiration from everything, from birdsongs - Dennis could recognize any bird native to this area - to satirical targets, with the conviction that humor had every right to exist in art. Dennis personified a quote from Col. Bruce Hampton - Dennis's friend and collaborator - which paraphrased is, "Take your work seriously, but don't take yourself seriously." Although he could generate ideas quickly, he never, ever did anything half-heartedly. On paintings, he would sweat over the tiniest detail; when working on a new recording, he ensured it was recorded and mixed to exacting standards. "Living in the moment" is not complacency, but it is doing the best with what you have. I have indelible memories of the time that Chattanooga was first exposed to Thollem at a show in 2007, with a small but rapt and appreciative audience. Undeterred by not having a traditional venue available in which to present Thollem, Dennis volunteered his house - the only time I've known that to happen - not wanting to pass up the opportunity to offer an incredibly intimate and rare performance, to a circle of friends. I knew that Dennis and Gino were long-time friends, and Dennis was always enthusiastic about having him in town, most recently in 2012 and before that in 2010, and collaborating on projects, like Dennis's cover art for Gino's brilliant I, Norton album. I think Dennis secretly envied Gino's hair, too. For Dennis, friendships were not superficial. Having dealt with heart issues for the last decade and a half of his life, and knowing of the history of heart trouble in his family, he chose wisely what he did with his time and with whom he spent it. Lengthy phone and face-to-face conversations over wine were staples in his life. His friendships had meaning and depth, and he always preferred depth rather than breadth; that said, Dennis had many friends who would consider him to be a close friend. When I spoke with mutual friends after his death, I couldn't count the number of times I heard things like, "I just had a great conversation with him a few days ago," or "We talked for an hour a week ago." I'm convinced that Dennis had the ability to connect with any person in the world. He could find common ground with everyone, and I remember being tickled when he mentioned that one of the reasons he watched current animated children's movies was so he could connect with the kids he taught. That wasn't the only reason, of course-he himself was a kid at heart. However, those who bonded with him on an aesthetic level and really understood why he was so fond of improvisation, his personal heroes like Derek Bailey and Rev. Howard Finster, synths, cartoons, prog rock, etc. - that was a whole other level of friendship. Dennis was comfortable with his friends, but it wasn't a comfort that equated to sitting still. It was more of a kind of trust, where you are comfortable with collaborators so that you can let your creative spirit go, unfettered. I've witnessed Dennis in classrooms, and he had that rare combination of patience, empathy, awareness and insight that the best educators possess. He found ways to tear down communication barriers; he told me that some of his most emotionally demanding work was at day camps for grieving children at Hospice of Chattanooga. Some of these children were too distressed to even want to speak, so Dennis would use music as a tool for children to open up; for these children, the simple act of hitting a drum was an expression and the first step toward communicating. I have never understood the idea of getting closure when it comes to death. Closure signifies an end, but when losing someone close, there really should be no end. Honoring and remembering Dennis is not about living in the past - we must first understand the past and then move forward; Dennis was a sworn enemy of the status quo, after all. Like live improvisation, relationships can sometimes be messy, but more often than not, they are rewarding. With collaborative improvisation, one first takes in what others create and then gives back, and this new album from Thollem and Gino really nails it, regarding capturing the complexity of joy, along with tumult and darkness that Dennis's improvisational energy projected. There's an exercise with which Dennis would often close his classes, involving asking the students to remember their last good feeling and give it to themselves, then to all in the room, and finally to the whole universe. Paying tribute to Dennis Palmer does not mark an end; it is about channeling the kindness, generosity and creativity he embodied, and sending it out to the cosmos, multiplied."

"-Setola Di Maiale

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
West Coast/Pacific US Jazz
Piano & Keyboards
Percussion & Drums
Duo Recordings
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Product Information:

Label: Setola Di Maiale
Catalog ID: SM2650
Squidco Product Code: 18811

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2014
Country: Italy
Packaging: Cardstock Triplefold Sleeve In Plastic Sleeve
Recorded at Post-Consumer Studios in Oakland, California, by Nicholas Taplin.


Gino Robair-percussion

Thollem McDonas-Rhodes, analog effects

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