Joe Giardullo Open Ensemble | Red Morocco | RogueArt Jazz

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Joe Giardullo: alto flute, bass clarinet, sopranino saxophone | Gordon Allen: trumpet | Lori Freedman: bass clarinet, clarinet | Joe McPhee: pocket trumpet, valve trombone | Michael Snow: violin | David Prentice: violin | Rosie Hertlein: violin | Martha Colby: cello | Daniel Levin: cello | Steve Lantner: piano | Rich Rosenthal: guitar | Dom Minasi: guitar | David Arner: xylophone | Brian Melick : percussions

Recorded on April 5th 2005 by Tom Mark at Make Believe Ballroom Studio (Shokan, Ny, Etats Unis) and on February 5th 2006 by Michael Snow at Wakamba (Marbletown, Ny, Etats Unis). Mastering: Ted Orr. Liner notes: John Szwed. Photographs: Bartosz Winiarski, Fionn Reilly. Producer: Joe Giardullo

Tracklist: 1. OPB (6.21) 2. OPG (7.42) 3. 2T(m) (4.08) 4. Memory Root (7.32) 5. OPD (3.47) 6. NFRTT-1 (4.17) 7. Q-2G(e) (8.38) 8. Calabar (3.03) 9. Hikori (3.01) 10. Red Morocco (10.45)

All compositions by Joe Giardullo

Someday someone will write a history of modern music

that will free us of the false dichotomies such as high vs. low, improviser vs. composer, classical vs. everything else…

…The written materials Joe passed out to the musicians for Red Morocco was minimal, sometimes more visual than musical, but always modest. Everyone was seated in the same room, in a circle. The music heard on this recording occurred late in the day, when Joe felt a certain clarity was occurring…

…The results are an elegant, shimmering, ringing music, like colors spiking across the plane of a Monet canvas, or spinning like a piece of Calder’s kinetic art; a constantly evolving, deeply sonic performance, collectively improvised, and decentered; a self-organizing musical system, with minimal input or constraints from outside. Giardullo is willing into existence a music that occurs beyond his control. This means he has to surround himself with musicians who are accomplished, but also open, free to take chances, and willing to be themselves, no matter what. — John Szwed, excerpt from the liner notes.

Joe Giardullo Open Ensemble | Red Morocco | rogueart jazz

Joe Giardullo | Photo by Bartosz Winiarski

Joe Giardullo’s 14 piece band dubbed the Open Ensemble

is named for good reason. Unlike many other groups that feature improvisation as their centerpiece, Giardullo demands a spacious precept that emphasizes tacit space as much as the notes, de-emphasizes counterpoint, al allows the music to breathe deeply. He also is not big on personal interactive listening skills as much as listening to one’s self, and ensuring that each individual contribution has the utmost meaning and depth. What you hear, on a completely different level than usually conceived, is a string of snippets that at times coincide, flow and ebb like an easy running river, and never congeal to the point where they blend the vast color palate employed into any one darkened or discernable hue. The group features heavyweights like Joe McPhee on pocket trumpet or valve trombone, guitarist Dom Minasi, and the leader on flutes, bass clarinet and soprano saxophone. Rising stars Steve Lantner on piano and Lori Freedman are included, as well as students of Giardullo. Not only is the ensemble open stylistically, but also instrumentally, as there are at least two of everything, especially emphasizing strings, save the piano, xylophone played by David Arner, and sole percussionist Brian Melick. Opening with “OPB” and OPG,” this feeling of democracy is clearly stated, as Giardullo’s concept seems fully accepted by the ensemble.

Everyone takes turns, a spontaneous, proportioned rotation is established, respect and pace are recognized, and that’s about it. By the end of “OPG,” everyone is comfortable with role-playing and the simplicity of openness. What is most amazing is that no single voice dominates, and because the player are in a circular set up, must be quite entertaining to hear live. Not that strong musicianship doesn’t come out, as the bass clarinets dominate on “Hikori,” Arner’s xylophone shimmers during “Q-26(e)” and chatters on the title track, while electric guitars go steely and pronounced on “Q-26(e)” and “OPD” with an introductory tick tock track and pulse being the most discernable rhythm. “2T(m)” is a beautiful display of pure democracy at work, with tandem melodies and soaring sounds, the flute lead of “Memory root” is a bit spooky, and the quicker chatter of “NFRTT-1” suggests dialogue. The strings as a united front are strongest during the brief but elongated “Calabar.” This is an idea, fronted by Giardullo’s always active mind, that is different from what everyone else in modern creative music is doing. There may be visual cues or inspiration from physical or spiritual objects, but certainly no written music. It’s a fascinating display of what still lies ahead for challenged musicians and listeners who believe conventional wisdom needs to be questioned and vagaries expounded upon. — Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide

Joe Giardullo Open Ensemble | Red Morocco | rogueart jazz

Joe Giardullo | Photo by Fionn Reilly

In an interview broadcast on Taran’s Free Jazz Hour

last November, New York reedman Joe Giardullo likened the music on this new large ensemble disc to the collective improvisation emerging from early 20th century New Orleans. His point was that those musicians were more concerned with their own parts rather than with the act of listening so often associated with improvised music. Giardullo also likened his titles to those of early Anthony Braxton.

Indeed, the composer paints a strangely beautiful line between, say, Baby Dodds and Braxton with his open forms, presenting the players with much fewer parameters than freedoms. A clarinet gliss here and an interregistral leap there bespeak multiple histories; such are the expressive devices encouraged by Giardullo’s quasi-aleatoric approach. Those elements that are fixed exist mainly in the pitch domain and, as Giardullo observed in the extensive interview, if the players maintained his pitch sets, desired occurrences would pervade the music.

Even before hearing the interview, there seemed to be certain ineluctability about the way lines converged, diverged and reunited. From the disc’s first moments, microgestural polyphony emerges that never seems overactive, though events delineate themselves in quick succession. The title track may be an even better point of entry, marimba and strings providing a busy but transparent and surprisingly spacious glimpse into Giardullo’s methods.

He calls it G2, or Gravity music and its first manifestation came in 1979. This is G2’s second generation and the Open Ensemble is lean, sleek and yet somehow full-bodied. The recording is extremely vivid, each note and gesture allowed to breathe in just the right way to foster clarity and impact, as this music thrives on both. Savor the augmented triad that ushers in “Calabar,” full but sweet, or the lush counterpoint that informs much of “Q-2G(e).”

This is an unexpected, but rewarding listen, elucidating another facet of this fine musician’s soundworld and the playing is highly committed throughout. It will be extremely interesting to see if subsequent large-scale projects follow similar paths. — Marc Medwin


CD version
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