Rod Poole – acoustic guitar, preparations bowed acoustic guitar | Jim McAuley – acoustic guitars, preparations | Nels Cline – acoustic guitars, preparations
Recorded by Rod Poole july 26, 2003 live at the Downtown Playhouse, Los Angeles, CA. This music is improvised. CD produced by Fabrizio Perissinotto. Mastered by Maurizio Giannotti at New Mastering Studio, Milano. Thanks to Lisa Ladaw-Poole, Fabrizio, Michael Intriere, Jeremy Drake, Scott Fraser and John De Heras. Cover painting by John De Heras. “Olinola”, 2007, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas. Layout and design by Jeremy Drake. Photography by Michael Intriere.
Tracklist: 1. Vignes 1 [18:14] 2. Vignes 2 [9:19] 3. Vignes 3 [13:20]
This is one of many recordings that Rod Poole made documenting this trio’s concert work. Tragically, Rod was murdered in 2007. But after reviewing his recordings during our concertizing days, we had collectively selected and sequenced pieces from this perfomance at the Downtown Playhouse and arrived at the title “Vignes”, which is the name of the street in Downtown Los Angeles where the space is located. It is a blessing to see this music finally released. This document is dedicated with love to the memory of our brilliant comrade, Rod Poole.
Nels & Jim – Los Angeles, November 2008
unreleased live album by the Acoustic Guitar Trio. The Acoustic Guitar Trio was a beautiful improvising trio. They were guitar masters Nels Cline, Jim McAuley and the late Rod Poole. Rod Poole, an unsung and sadly quite unknown guitar player suddenly died last year under tragic circumstances. Nels Cline said about Rod: “He was a true artist, probably a genius. He had an amazing capacity as both music fan and autodidact musician visionary”. Nels and Jim Mc Auley want this live album to be a tribute to Rod and the fantastic music they played together. Jim McAuley says of “Vignes”: “surging drones, sparkling arpeggios and noisy prepared guitars. I feel it’s our best work”. The only recorded work by the AG3 so far is the self-titled and critically acclaimed cd released by the English label Incus in 2002. More news and details about the artists involved coming soon.
Rod Poole | 1962 – 2007
Unless you heard Rod Poole
Nels Cline and Jim McAuley’s Acoustic Guitar Trio CD, released on Incus in 2002, you will probably never have heard guitar music sounding like this one. The three musicians are the same, but this performance was recorded live on Vignes Street in Los Angeles in 2003. All three musicians venture into the microtonal universe that British guitarist Rod Poole explored obsessively, playing on an open-tuned instrument played with a bow. All three musicians are also very pre-occupied with sound, like a painter can relish the physical qualities of paint, or a sculpture of stone. All three musicians do not really belong to a musical tradition, having set aside such notions about genre.
Yes, Cline is best know from his rock music, but that would be very limitative to describe his work. McAuley has a more folk sound, but again, that is not doing credit to his skills. And Poole apparently was in a category all his own. “Vignes 1″, the long first improvisation, starts calmly, in a rather conventional way, but moving forward, a repetitive, rhythmic one-chord basis sets the tone for the two other guitars to fill in the empty space, creating a weird hypnotic piece, dark and light, or heavy and light if you wish, with varying levels of intensity, but inherently paradoxical, ending in almost silence, where structure and rhythm are completely abandoned for pure sound exploration, recognizable, though not always, as coming from a guitar. “Vignes 2″ rebuilds improvisational density, atonal, but rhythmic, with all strings creating again a strange surreal universe, like curtains waving in the breeze, attached to nothing but the imagination. “Vignes 3″ brings the trio’s sense of adventure a step further, with Poole starting to use the bow on his strings. It doesn’t sound like Jimmy Page, or even Raoul Björkenheim, but it has a screeching quality which some will call painful, some nerve-racking, some beautiful, or possibly all three of them.
It will certainly not leave you indifferent. The performance was recorded by Poole, who was unfortunately killed in 2007. Apparently there is more material left by him and by this trio. Although this music is surely not to everyone’s taste, the trio’s musical explorations and the new dimension given to acoustic guitar playing clearly deserves even more releases. — Stef
In 2003 Rod Poole
Los Angeles based British expat guitarist, microtonal musician and tireless archivist of the local improvised music scene, decided to stop performing live. A sad loss, but not as tragic as Poole’s death four years later in a senseless road rage stabbing outside a fast food joint in Hollywood. He left behind barely half a dozen albums, which makes the release of this follow-up to 2002′s Incus studio session Acoustic Guitar Trio ali the more welcome. There are plenty of notes from Poole and fellow guitarists Nels Cline and Jim McAuley in these three tracks, recorded live in Los Angeles in July 2003 – hardly surprising from musicians who are open to the influence of, without ever simply aping, the idioms of free jazz, folk, rock, blues and bluegrass, evident from Cline’s work with Wilco, or McAuley’s splendid The Ultimate Frog – but the music is never gabby or nervous.
From time to time, one of the guitarists settles into a rocking ostinato and lets his partners take the initiative, though it’s never a simple question of solo and accompaniment; the relationship between foreground and background is in constant flux, and as subtle as the tuning systems decided on by the musicians prior to performance. “Our methodology was quite simple,” recalls Cline. “Make up a tuning on the spot for each improvisation, look around at each other to find the nods and grins of agreement that meant that a promising tuning combination had been arrived at, and go.” Microtonallmprov, particularly from the Mat Maneri stable on the other side of the United States, can often be terse and forbidding, but that’s not the case here.
There’s even room for recognisable harmonic progressions and singable melody. Vignes isn’t a heated argument, though things do get fiery from time to time, but a mature, intelligent conversation between three fine musicians. Part of the fun of listening is trying to work out who’s playing what, but it’s far from easy. For the record, Cline is left of centre, McAuley’s distinctive kalimba-like preparations are in the middle, and Poole, who handles the bowed work, is towards the right of the stereo mix. Ultimately doesn’t matter much. — Dan Warburton
Nels Cline – Jim McAuley – Rod Poole
The 2007 murder of guitarist Rod Poole
makes everything he recorded more precious; good thing he documented some of his shows. Here we get three improvisations with fellow guitarists Nels Cline and Jim McAuley from a live 2003 concert in downtown L.A.
The trio treat their instruments with great delicacy and little respect for what some luthier imagined: They stick things between the strings, pluck and slap in unaccustomed ways. Poole sometimes applies a bow to his ax, which I think is microtonally fretted. If they won’t let a guitar be a guitar, they also won’t allow their music to be entirely human. I hear the dense fall of dry leaves, a flower opening in fast motion, the textures of raw silk, the abrasion of rusty barbed wire, the resonance of rotted wood, the drone of cicadas, the creaking of a giant iron door. On the human side, there are running feet and lullaby arms. The densities, rhythms and volume vary from moment to moment. The mood is one of calm concentration and mutual respect. The three play as an ensemble, so you usually can’t tell who’s who. All are masters who know exactly what kinds of sounds they can produce. (They are not experimenting.) Time goes away. — metaljazz.com
Nels Cline – Jim McAuley – Rod Poole
This is the second Acoustic Guitar Trio album
a follow-up to their 2001 studio-recorded release on Derek Bailey’s Incus label. Vignes was recorded live in 2003 at the Downtown Playhouse (on Vignes Street, hence the title) in Los Angeles. The three pieces here represent the edited highlights from two improvised sets. Judicious editing removed such distractions as traffic
noise, leaving what sounds like a pure set. Of all the live recordings of the trio, this is the only one that the trio scrutinized and unanimously agreed was ripe for release. It’s hard to disagree with them on that decision.
If an acoustic guitar trio conjures up echoes of Crosby, Stills & Nash or even McLaughlin, DiMeola & DeLucia, prepare to be surprised. This trio has few links to such paradigms; they play microtonal improvisations with no unison strumming in evidence. The trio’s members are Nels Cline, Jim McAuley and the late Rod Poole, who was murdered in the car park of a Hollywood diner. The three have very different styles of playing, but they combine and complement each other well. Poole’s microtonal tunings gave his guitar a distinctive sound, as does his occasional use of a bow. As on his solo album Gongfarmer 18, McAuley displays blues influences and employs a range of extended improvising technique, including playing below the bridge and detuning whilst playing. Although better known as an electric guitarist, Cline improvises well on acoustic, weaving fine detail around the others.
Such characterizations of the three do not fully do justice to the trio. Unlike their Incus album, on which they were clearly separated in the stereo image, here it is not possible to fully disentangle each player’s contribution from the others. No matter, at its best the trio doesn’t sound like three individuals but like one single-brained, many-handed entity. When all three are in full flow together, the results make for thrilling listening. This is not music to analyze but to wallow in. Cline tellingly describes their methodology: “make up a tuning on the spot for each improvisation, look around at each other to find the nods and grins of agreement that meant a promising tuning combination had been arrived at, and GO. For Jim McAuley and me, it was challenging yes, but more like breathing; natural, nurturing.” Sadly, Vignes marks the end for Acoustic Guitar Trio, unless Cline decides to release more archival material. For now, this album acts as a fitting tribute to both Poole and a unique threesome. — dustedmagazine.com
Nels Cline – Jim McAuley – Rod Poole
It’s with both joy and sadness
that I’ve been listening to this superb 2003 live date by Rod Poole, Jim McAuley and Nels Cline. Joy because of the long-overdue exposure McAuley has been receiving (at least relatively, in this tiny comer), but sadness because of Poole’s senseless murder in 2007. So here is a remembrance: a gorgeous trio of improvisations, a reminder of the beauty in this music of the margins, this strange and lovely sound that remains unheralded, doggedly championed, and lovingly explored. Cline has a Lydia Lunch quote on his website: “The only thing worse than a guitar is a guitarist.” It’s hard to find convincing guitar improvisers, that’s for damn sure. It’s amazing that three of this rare breed found each other. United not just by a shared love of microtonal music but by a capacious sense of the possibilities of this maligned and overdetermined instrument, these three players create wonders. It’s not about technique, though there’s plenty of that, and it’s not about solos (though there’s abundant expression and even more emotion).
The seamless interactions yield bright tapestries, woody thickets, groaning drones, lovely detuned daubs, and flinty shapes at the edges of lonesome arpeggios. Rhythm, texture, line, whatever: it all comes from a shared love for the myriad possibilities of the acoustic guitar. The preparations are used subtly and effectively, not calling attention to anything other than the music. For example, at the end of “Vignes 1″ theres a bracing percussive package where somebody plays what sounds like a Raymond Strid press roll. There are lengthy exhalations and whispers on “Vignes 3.” And there are some lovely passages for bowed guitar, especially in the very electric drones that conclude “Vignes 3.”
As bracing as individual moments are—like the chorus of broken kotoson “Vignes2″–what’s so ntrancing about this trio is the way they combine such angularity and improv archness with compelling rhythmic momentum, fragile lyricism, and sweet/sour melody. Occasionally, in creeps a bent note that conjures up idiomatic references, but it’s always suggestive rather than declamatory. The pieces really breathe, too, and no matter how dense the trio get, they always follow passages of resounding and chiming with a bunch of space, getting small, scrubbing and ru~ing away as if they’re trying to keep a lonesome fire alight. This stuff has such audible integrity, such passion, and you can practical ly hear the listening. — Signal to Noise
Rod Poole | 1962 – 2007
Rod Poole was born on January 4, 1962, in Taplow, just outside of London, in England. Rod began his studies in guitar in 1972 and over the years, experimented with various musical idioms, including free improvisation, free jazz and live electronic music. By the mid-1980s, his primary interests were acoustic-based free improvisation and finger-picked solo acoustic guitar. He was a founding member of the Oxford Improvisor’s Cooperative and was active in the Cooperative from 1983 to 1986. Though his family moved to and lived in several places in England, it was in Oxford that Rod developed many close friendships and considered Oxford his home. During this time in Oxford, he also began his work as a music instructor, teaching both electrical and acoustic guitar.
Rod PooleAfter moving to the United States in 1989, Rod began studying just intonation with the world’s foremost theorist on the subject, Ervin Wilson, in Los Angeles. He spent the next several years developing his approach to playing the guitar using just intonation theory.
Rod released a handful of unique and highly praised CDs on the W.I.N., Transparency, and Incus labels – The Dead Adder, December 96, Iasis,and The Acoustic Guitar Trio. He contributed “Kalaidoscopic Sunday” to the Henry Kaiser-curated guitar compilation, 156 Strings, and “The Fire Left to Come” to the SASSAS two-CD set, Sound, a compilation of Los Angeles-based performances curated by Cindy Bernard. Rod also engineered the recording of all but three of the performances on Sound. He has performed with Derek Bailey, Mia Masaoka, Joseph Hammer, Kraig Grady, Nels Cline, Donald Miller, Pat Thomas, Tony Bevan, Eugene Chadbourne, and others.
In October of 2005, Rod released the CD, Mind’s Island, with Sasha Bogdanowitsch, a composer, vocalist & multi-instrumentalist whose work strives to unite East and West sensibilities by working towards a unique ‘world’ musical language.
Both Poole and Bogdanowitsch are long-time performers of just intoned music and Mind’s Island is an advanced example of the melodic and harmonic possibilities that can be created using alternative tuning systems. All of the recordings on Mind’s Island were created with virtually no prior discussion before the actual taping. Scale(s) were chosen as a basis for improvisation. Melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, and duration were spontaneous.
Justguitar Records was created in the Fall of 2005 as a vehicle for Rod to make available new and archival recordings from his sound library. Mind’s Island was its first release.
After a hiatus from live performance for several years, Rod was recently preparing to perform again. His wife, Lisa Ladaw, and his close friends will continue his legacy of music on Justguitar Records and release several of his recordings in the future.
CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)