Ken Filiano | Michael Attias | Tony Malaby | Michael T.A. Thompson | Dreams From A Clown Car

Ken Filiano – double bass, EFX | Michael Attias – baritone & alto saxophones | Tony Malaby – tenor a soprano saxophones | Michael T.A. Thompson – drums

Recorded August 8th 2008 at Park West Studios by Jim Clouse, Brooklyn, NY. Mixed and mastered by Jim Clouse at Park West Studios, Brooklyn, Ny. Produced by Ken Filiano. Executive production by Trem Azul. Liner notes by Gilles Marie-Paul Laheurte. Artwork and design by Travassos.

Special thanks to the members of Quantam Entanglements for trusting their hearts 100%+; to the team of Trem Azul for their devotion to the music and artists they love; and to Andrea Wolper for her support and that depp well of celestial patience centered within her soul.


Tracklist: 1. Silhouette 2. Dog Days 3. Beguiled 4. Shinobu 5. Baiting Patience 6. Powder & Paint 7. Retronym

Think of a Clown Car…

and right away a number of images and impressions come to mind: a huge circus tent, a universe in itself; a group of crazies; a festive honking time; loud, often delirious laughs; vivid colors; fun costumes; wild make-up; big red noses, big bright sounds; dramatized human behavior, both humorous and sad; things magical, so different from everyday life; sizzling energy; subtle poetry; and more, how, think of Dreams… and likewise right away a number of thoughts and reflections also come to mind and take you to strange other worlds: unexplainable odd situations; noble aspirations that can’t materialize yet; beautiful warped reality; impossible things becoming possible instantly; and much more. 5o, with the myriad thoughts that Dreams can evoke, combined with those triggered from an implausible “Clown Car Band” comprised of four highly sensitive musicians/creative improvisers, everything becomes possible. The resulting tunes – each with a title chosen with great care — are profoundly vivid expressions of a few “moments” of life, gripping musical paintings bearing not only the distinctive signature of their composer / band leader, but also the distinctive personalities of each member of this brilliant energetic quartet. Colors, sounds and energies converge, intertwine, blend, their metamorphosis growing on the tunes’ canvasses as vibrant sketches, irradiating LIFE in its many forms.

Despite what would seem an apparently ‘facetious’ title, there is no clowning around here… Let’s never forget that clowns are multi-talented professional artists. They hold in their souls the lyricism of an extended (if not permanent) childhood and hardly anything escapes their hyper sensitiveness. They know how to make us share their dreams, and we can’t remain insensitive to that because we share the same human feelings and aspirations.

Thus, as a whole, this album is an intense, deeply spiritual communion and very picturesque show, a provocative musical story reminiscent of Mussorgsky’s Pictures of an Exhibition, each tune a very special group “portrait” spontaneously created, all four improvising musicians – actors on a stage – on the razor’s edge of the powerful MOW. The seven Dreams comprising this album trigger vivid “impressionistic” images that repeated careful listening will enhance. In Silhouette ~ like a Clown Car suddenly arriving on stage — the powerful bass suddenly comes out of nowhere like an invisible entity wanting to manifest its presence, affirming its dominant role, soon joined by the other voices, all becoming a unique multi-faceted “being” revealing some of its mysterious oneness. Clowns make us laugh, but they cry more often than they laugh, and the opening repetitive line/plaintive wailing of Dog Days feels like a cry for help from a clown’s soul trying to find a sympathetic ear while going through the grinding ordeal, simultaneously commenting on the hardships that Dog Days can bring and impose… The tenor’s laments, enhanced by the alto’s wavy lines, tell the painful “story” over the bass/drums’ own steady pursuance. Beguiled insists on some kind of inner questioning, inner despair or torment (a clown’s favorite theme), the soul confronting “something,” singing its disarray, screaming its need for help, then finally finding peace and hope… A bit like an incantation, Shinobu is full of nostalgic sensuous emotion, pensive romantic remembrance, showing much tenderness (…a clown’s impossible love, unrealized dream?) while Baiting Patience shows inner calm, careful restraint, no pressure, quiet confidence, a simple wait to let things happen in their own way, a dream with an unknown but much awaited logical outcome (…a clown’s ode to wisdom, or maybe an ideal love?). The slow and rather solemn Powder & Paint – which brings out feelings of great fondness, almost a certain form of sadness ~ features a beautiful lyrical bass solo, a befitting respectful tribute to a loved one of a highly noble character (…a clown’s precious relationship?). The closing piece, Retronym – a word defined on the internet as “a new name for an object or concept to differentiate the original form or version from a more recent form or version” – seems a perfect title to describe how clowns so cleverly modify anything. It uses a fast melodic linear musical statement (on the unison alto and tenor sax) picturing an obviously un-defined (on purpose) “thing” where logic and fluidity prevail through the rephrasing of its primary content, with many subtle intelligent twists that William Safire (whose article inspired the title), would surely much appreciate if music could be instantly translated into words.

Join this intrepid quartet on their magical Clown Car ride. You’ll be surprised to discover we’re all sensitive clowns too. — Gilles Marie-Paul Laheurte, 27 August 2010

Ken Filiano

is one of those bassists who have established bonafide credentials in the advanced jazz network as one of the leading instrumentalists of his generation. If you know his playing you know it is dead centered on communicating all facets of the complete contrabass experience. Listen to his Dreams From A Clown Car (Clean Feed 207) and you’ll hear all of that. Bowing or pizzicato he tears forth into an expressive zone and stays right there throughout.

He knows what cats to get on his team too. The one-two punch of Michael Attias and Tony Malaby on reeds, formidable both singly and as a team, virtually guarantees that a high level of musical thought and deed will be reached early on and wont disappear through the course of the entire disk. Michael T. A. Thompson brings in the right combination of power and finesse to this thoughtfully free session. He can create hard-edged washes and rumbles of percussive density, he can lay down a swinging pulse that has variation and drive, and he can sensitively complement the quieter moments too, all in ways that testify to his big ears.

Then there’s Ken Filano the crafter of good free playing frameworks, Ken the jazz composer. That’s the third piece of what makes the disk at hand stand out. He writes motifs that bring out the potential and considerably realized kinetic energy of the players involved. There are the long-lined pieces like “Baiting Patience” that roll through like a long freight train, continually picking up collective momentum. There are the angular stabbing jabs of melodic distinction too, pieces that set up open-ended blowing possibilities.

In short Dreams From A Clown Car gives you highly evolved, direct yet intricate collective creativity and dynamics. It’s one of the finest free dates I’ve heard so far this year. The right cats, the right material, the right time. A beautiful moment in the new decade and a testament to the continued vitality of the new jazz. That’s what we have here. If you are serious about where we are right now this should be on your short list of music to nab. Ken Filano triumphs. Attias, Malaby and Thompson outdo their considerable musical selves. The present is made salient. Jump on this one, no kidding. — Grego Applegate Edwards



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