Radius | Witch of Agnesi | Plutonium Records

plu 004

Alan Lechusza – bari sax, flute, clarinet, oboe, bass clarinet | Mark Weaver– tuba  | Damon Smith – double bass  | Dave Wayne – drumset

Tracklist: 1. the positive nature of weeds [11:42) 2. rendezvous of symmetries [6:57] 3. the same feather (20:48) 4. helical progress (12:15) 5. heiroglyphic (12:47) 6. numen (6:42)

Recorded by Stephen Schmidt and Tom Guralnick live at the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, New Mexico 04-30-01. Mastered at Q! Productions, Albuquerque NM. Liner notes by Ken Waxman. All selections are instant compositions by Lechusza/Weaver/Smith/Wayne ©2002

One of the exhilarating aspects of improvisation

is that it occasionally gives musicians from divergent locations the freedom to get together and create instant compositions that sound as if they come from a working group. This is one of those instances. Recorded in concert at the aptly-named Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the disc combines the talents of local tuba explorer Mark Weaver with that of discriminating drummer Dave Wayne of nearby Santa Fe, plus multi-reedman Alan Lechusza from San Diego, California and young bass master Damon Smith of California’s Bay area.

Besides serving as an object lesson in new improvised music, it also reaffirms the 21st century dictum that attention-worthy improv is regularly being made far from the American jazz capitals of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. With such aids as the reach of the Internet and the increased sophistication of regional audiences, good players now don’t have to move to the so-called music capitals to be appreciated. Case in point is drummer Wayne, who has a day job as a chemist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Still he finds time to add his in-the-moment percussion creations to such bands as guitarist Stephen Dill’s avant-metal trio.

Lechusza, who here exhibits his circular-breathing prowess on clarinet, his African-Asian influences on oboe and ethereal flute plus exhibits concentrated multiphonics on bass clarinet and baritone saxophone, is an educator and composer. His compositions have been performed by instrumentalists such as the Aulos Saxophone Quartet in recitals and at music congresses. On the improv side, he’s probably best known for his membership in The Vinny Golia Large Ensemble.

Conversant with 20th century classical harmony and jazz improvisation, bassist Smith has made a point to interact with a host of European and American stylists of every jazz-influenced genre, most notably German bassist Peter Kowald – an early influence – Italian saxophonist Gianni Gebbia and Swedish saxophonist Biggi Vinkeloe. Smith has also recorded in a trio setting with Vinkeloe and tuba player Weaver.

radius | witch of agnesi | plutonium records 004

Weaver, who manages to play and record frequently despite – or perhaps because of – his location, proposed and coordinated the concert that became this recording. Primarily self-taught and someone who has played in other groups with different combinations of these musicians, his task might have been the hardest: to find a place for his distinctive low brass within these six examples of spontaneous music. Improvising tuba players are no strangers to modern jazz, pioneers like Ray Draper even recorded with John Coltrane among others. But those sessions also featured a chordal player, usually a pianist, to beef up the rhythm section.

As you can hear on this CD, however, Weaver goes Draper one better. Not only does he frequently move to the foreground to solo, but as one-quarter of this ensemble, Weaver can also supply a steady ostinato backdrop, recalling tuba’s early jazz function as a brass bass. There’s no need to go into details of the cornucopia of creative delights to be sampled on the more than 71 minutes of music here. All you, as the listener, has to do is take the disc out of its sleeve and put it into your CD player.

Throughout, you’ll hear free spirits creating in top form. However, despite the title, don’t expect any examples of enchanted crone improv. The Witch of Agnesi is actually a geometrical term for a specific curve identified by Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi. The expression intrigued the musicians, as the sounds here should intrigue you. —Ken Waxman, Toronto, June 3, 2002

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