Solo Works: Lumina Recordings


aec.tza7615.2 2/21/06 New

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    Solo Works: Lumina Recordings Tzadik Records

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Review Text Solo Works: The Lumina Recordings is a double-disc set of Ned Rothenberg's three early solo recordings, made between 1980 and 1985 and previously released on LP on his own Lumina label. The titles include Trials of the Argo, Portal, and Trespass. Given what an amazing composer and ensemble arranger Rothenberg is, these outings are revelatory because they offer a glimpse of a proficient player coming to grips with the development of an entirely new personal solo language for playing reeds. Rothenberg has continued to perform solo, and these records are wonderful reference points for his base language for the instruments he plays. One immediately thinks of Evan Parker, and while Parker was certainly an influence, it's not in the way one might think. Rothenberg was of course familiar with Parker's spontaneous compositional precept, but the real influence Parker offered to the young Rothenberg was in playing him three recordings that shaped his compositional space (Rothenberg was looking for something more formal at the time) and provided him a new place to begin tonally, harmonically, and spatially. "Trials of the Argo" and "Continuo After the Inuit" pay direct homage and reference to an album that Parker had played for him documenting songs and games of the Inuit on Baffin Island in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, and on disc one are solo statements. There is much overdubbing of the alto, woodwinds, and homemade instruments. These create a formal stepping stone for tonal, harmonic, melodic, and even rhythmic inquiry that have served Rothenberg to the present day. The title piece from Portal is another solo piece played on bass clarinet and involving splitting tones and other breath exercises, while on "Polysemy" he plays alto and a trap set and is accompanied by Gerry Hemingway on a tenor steel drum. It is utterly entrancing, involving Middle Eastern melodic ideas. Disc two contains the remaining work from Portal -- "Caenis," for soprano double ocarina. Trespass is made up of eight shorter pieces; most are solo works, such as the title track, another version of "Caenis," and "Filigree" for alto, as well as a pair of bass clarinet compositions, "Strata" and "Slapstick." All of these pieces are based on thematic ideas for expanding the solo palettes of the instruments they were composed for. Rothenberg worked so much with the inventive use of repetition that rhythmic notions come out of the organic nature of the work. His melodic sensibility offers a wonderfully extensive harmonic reach for color and space. There is a duet on Trespass called "Kakeai," where Rothenberg teams with fellow downtown composer and altoist John Zorn. While, as Rothenberg points out in his liner notes, he and Zorn are very different players, they do achieve commonality in the musical spaces they create in counterpoint together. The second disc also includes three bonus tracks recorded live between 1991 and 1995, all of which are recorded with processed bass clarinet and electronics. Tzadik's presentation of this work on CD is wonderful. The music has been remastered beautifully. The package also includes a massive 36-page booklet with extensive liner notes by Rothenberg, resulting in a definitive historical document of one of the downtown scene's most active and visionary composers and performers. ~ Thom Jurek

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Trials of the Argo - 3:20
  2. 2. Continuo After the Inuit - 2:22
  3. 3. Portal - 3:39
  4. 4. Polysemy - 14:43

CD: 2

  1. 5. Caeneus - 9:42
  2. 6. Strata - 6:54
  3. 7. Trespass - 4:28
  4. 8. Caenis - 7:10
  5. 9. Slapstick - 3:17
  6. 10. Filigree - 5:37
  7. 11. Kakeai - 11:25
  8. 12. Taps - 3:29
  9. 13. Wrestling with Water - 6:41
  10. 14. Funhouse #1 - 14:06
  11. 15. Funhouse #2 - 5:19

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