Ernesto Diaz-Infante | Tepeu

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Tepeu

by Ernesto Diaz-Infante

Very tonal, improvisation-like freshness, soft, gentle texture, almost romantic at times, gently drawing the listener in. "suitable for framing." Jim Santella, All About Jazz
Genre: Jazz: Free Jazz
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1. As above, so below
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2. Thesis
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3. Tepeu
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22:06 $0.99
4. Antithesis
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5. Synthesis
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6. What has been, will be again
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Tepeu is a CD collection of six improvisations for solo pinao by San Francisco-based composer/improviser Ernesto Diaz-Infante. Tepeu, the Mayan god of creation, proportion and order, was the inspiration for the work. The improvisations flow into one another, gently drawing the listener in with an organically evolving narrative.Ernesto says, "I think of my creative process as bringing order out of chaos. All of the compositions on this recording were freely improvised, except for Tepeu, which was a structured improvisation." This is a BEAUTIFUL record. Highly recommended. Please listen to the soundclips here.

Born in Salinas, California, Ernesto Diaz-Infante, is Chicano (of Mexican descent). He received his MFA in Music Composition from California Institute of the Arts (studied with Wadada Leo Smith and Stephen L. Mosko) and has created musical compositions that span a broad perspective: transcendental piano, noise, avant-garde guitar, field recordings, lo-fi four-track manipulations, and experimental song. ED-I has performed throughout Europe and the United States, and his music has been broadcasted internationally. He has recorded more than 15 CDs of music and collaborated with numerous musicans. In 2000, his composition, I/O (for chamber ensemble), was performed by the California EAR Unit. He has been awarded residencies at the Centre International de Recherche Musicale (CIRM) in Nice, France, The Millay Colony for the Arts, Villa Montalvo, The Ucross Foundation, among others. He runs Pax Recordings record label which is dedicated to the documentation, preservation, and contagion of music from the margins of our culture and psyches. He lives in San Francisco with the filmmaker/video artist Marjorie Sturm and their son and daughter.


Reviews


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Richard di Santo, Incursion

Highly recommended.
These two discs are the first in an ongoing series of annual recordings for solo piano by improvisational composer Ernesto Diaz-Infante published by Pax Recordings. Since then two others have been released, Ucross Journal in 1999 and Solus in 2000.

Tepeu, recorded exactly one year following Itz'at on the fourth of July, 1998, is so named after a Mayan god who has the role of bringing order to the universe. Diaz-Infante finds a kindred spirit in Tepeu, for he says: "I think of my creative process as bringing order out of chaos". Collected here are six improvisations (one of them structured, the other five being "free"). On this recording we see Diaz-Infante building on the foundation he had established one year earlier, creating pieces which share a similar quality of studious and deliberate playing. But this time the music is more bold, the keys are struck with greater force, and there is more of a sense that a time for introspection must always be met by a time for decision making and action (hence the thesis-antithesis-synthesis theme in the track titles). Conflicting emotions ranging from a cool sort of calm to more confused emotional states mark the moods of these bold and energetic pieces, creating a greater sense of urgency but also a sense of incomprehensible mystery, the kind that's at the root of the human condition.

Both of these discs from Diaz-Infante offer captivating compositions that reward the listener at every turn; this is the kind of music that increases in richness and meaning as the listener builds on experiences in his own life. Highly recommended.

Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews

“Tepeu” belongs in the music of Claude Debussy...
A good hour of piece with yourself. A good hour’s outtake for far away eyes, seemingly absentmindedly locked in the horizon…

Diaz-Infante: “Tepeu is a Mayan god: the Governor, one who brings order to the universe. I think of my creative process as bringing order out of chaos”.

These free improvisations are airy structures climbing like spider legs across the terrain of an uncharted score of the gods.
“As above, so below” calms and soothes, moves the high grass to the side in wide, stroking gestures, in an innocence and honesty that accepts the conditions of life in a karmic assurance of elevation up through the existences…
Notes are sparse, finding their way ahead or to the side – sometimes even in directions arching backwards into their own auditory prints – in gentle proceedings, a little uneven, sometimes apparent in small accumulations of timbres, sometimes in lone, solidly contoured bodies of tone. You feel safe, yet curious… and aloof.

“Thesis” starts and continues in the vein of a Terry-Rileyish “New Albion Chorale” atmosphere, with glimmering, glistening spiralings out of the grand keyboard of the piano, at times digging down in blue-note blues trajectories, but always returning to the windswept expanses of Western prairies with snow-covered mountain peaks at the sawtooth horizon, where thoughts and dreams can roam freely, on soaring gushes of fresh oxygen.

“Tepeu” is the weightiest of the improvisations, with its longer duration. Diaz-Infante expresses that “Tepeu” is a structured improvisation, as opposed to the free improvisations of the other pieces.
My immediate and initial feeling in connection with “Tepeu” belongs in the music of Claude Debussy and some really contemplative and almost sly undertakings of composers early in the 20th century. The music is sparse, transparent, thinned out, yet tangible and sort of wooden, as if you could touch the body of the composition, like you would an old wooden toy horse that had become tarnished and discolored by age and many generations of tiny hands… and maybe this feeling of something reclaimed from the custody of Time has to do with the name of this god – Tepeu – being proclaimed – invoked - out of the cultural layers of the Mayas.


Ernesto Diaz-Infante
(Photo: Salvador F. Muñoz)

You have a lot of good time inside this composition to gaze out through the lattice of the tones, to whatever dreamy vision your inner self is transposed by Ernesto Diaz-Infante’s light, bleak and estranged fingerings through this music, which brings across the impression that the performer is disconnected, uplifted in some higher layer of existence, with the keyboard magically connected directly to the electric impulses of his far away visions…
Diaz-Infante achieves the finest tone of expression of late colleague Morton Feldman without indulging in any of Feldman’s compositional methods, through just having his musical impulses of the moment meander out of his creative aura into the body of the instrument, from where these coded messages from within rise in spectral beauty…

“Antithesis” is the first fast-moving track on the CD, with bluesy staccato rhythms and densely packed stacks of tones, falling out downwind in a domino effect music with bluesy signatures. Again I feel the connection to Terry Riley and some of the tracks of his state of the art work “Harp of New Albion”. This is great new art music from big sky deliberations, with an inherent flavor of some of the more popular musical genres of smoky clubs on the respective seaboards of America. Diaz-Infante hammers away in great precision, as the skilled artisan he is; a quality extra obvious when he lets lose and simply lets his intuition do the job.
I suppose “Antithesis” is the antithesis of “Thesis”, in a good old Hegelian way, which would characterize the next piece – “Synthesis” – as the subsequent Hegelian synthesis of the thesis and the antithesis, making the synthesis another thesis, which in turn would be opposed by another antithesis and so forth…
“Synthesis” trickles like melting water from a snowy roof a day in March in the Northern Hemisphere, as the sunlight is getting gradually warmer, actually affecting the snow cover on the southern slopes, but not yet reaching winter where it ducks away in obscure and shadowy hideouts of deep forests…

There is no real need for hurry inside this music, but it moves along nicely anyway, the way life passes day by day with no special object other than letting time flow through our anatomies or letting our bodies – temporary expressions of cosmic forces (the breath of God) – sail and soar through the time-space continuum…
I sit still and let Diaz-Infante’s relaxed but concentrated pianistic expressions cleanse my mind of thoughts and other debris…

“What has been, will be again” is the wonderful title of Diaz-Infante’s last improvisation on this great release from Pax Recordings. I keep the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Bhagavad-Gita by my bed, reading a few pages each night before going to sleep, so I’m accustomed to that thought, or should I say that notion… of an ever-present life force, just manifesting itself in all these innumerable mortal shapes and forms, shifting in and out of view, never gone, indestructible… and so Diaz-Infante’s conclusion points ahead through these meandering, sweeping, caressing chords of the piano, through swaying curtains of overtones and colorful timbres into lofty chambers of space and time, and the light of enlightenment reflects off of each droplet of sound…

Noah Wane, Splendid Magazine

Thoughtful throughout and immaculately executed, Tepeu is serious music...
Tepeu is the second CD of Ernesto Diaz-Infante's that I've had the pleasure of reviewing. The first was last year's itz'at and like it, Tepeu is a collection of compositions for solo piano. I'll admit right away that I'm quite taken by Mr. Diaz-Infante's work. His compositions have an improvisation-like freshness that I find absolutely fetching. Furthermore his soft, gentle textures are soothing when compared to the hyper-aggressive tone of the bulk of today's art music. The flowing forms that govern his compositions imply a vastness that is conducive to the imagination -- just close your eyes and let the music take you away! Tepeu is brighter than itz'at, its harmonies less harsh, its rhythms more regular. A composition like "As above, so below" almost sounds like a bare-bones new age track. "Antithesis" is positively jaunty; it goes on a bit long, but I defy anyone remain smile-less for its duration. Thoughtful throughout and immaculately executed, Tepeu is serious music that doesn't make you suicidal.

Frank Rubolino, One Final Note

He is a seeker of sonic refinement and order on this disc...
The piano music of Ernesto Diaz-Infante is a totally different matter and evolves as a thought-induced process devoid of such physicality. It is pensive, introspective, and near-meditative, building on somber tones that dwell in dark recesses of his mind; yet the captive poetry is able to escape its habitat and in so doing expose his searching soul. These four albums span a period of 28 months. Itz’at and Tepeu were recorded on the same date in 1997, Ucross Journal 14 months later, and Solus 14 months after that. Each is a solo venture where Diaz-Infante probes deeply into the inner core of the songs. His musings are reflective, spontaneous, sometimes sparse, and sometimes voluminous. They surface as gems of beauty dripping from the vibrating keys.

Tepeu from the same session has six compositions, including the lengthy title cut that depicts a Mayan god, whom Diaz-Infante states brings order out of chaos just as his creative process does. Other than the structured improvisation of this song, the pieces are all instantly composed. Diaz-Infante continues his examination of improvised sound while building the resonance and establishing a higher level of flow by filling in all the cracks and crevices. The music has a ringing continuum. Notes hang in the air while new expressions vie to take their place and others cascade down as gently falling rain. His touch also becomes more percussive as he induces the keys to speak in more volatile tongues. Diaz-Infante opens the throttle on “Antithesis” to establish a new foothold marked with vibrant tonality and rushing waves of sound, only to retrench into sacred ground on the ensuing “Synthesis” with its cognitive deliberativeness. He is a seeker of sonic refinement and order on this disc and continues to find the right path.

Diaz-Infante is an intricate artist whose music projects the complexity of the man and the emotions of his inner being. He is able to convey his immediate feelings through his playing, making each recording unique and rewarding. These four discs represent a composite of an artist who uses his talent to express more than music—he expresses himself.

Jim Santella, All About Jazz

“suitable for framing.”
Improvised solo piano musings from gifted artist Ernesto Diaz-Infante allow the listener to share in the creative process. His two albums itz'at and Tepeu both serve to demonstrate the improviser's creative process from start to finish. Diaz-Infante begins with vague thematic material and molds it, through his choices of harmony and melody, into an image “suitable for framing.” The pianist earned his master's in composition from CalArts in Southern California, studying with free and creative instructors that included trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith.
The title track is 22 minutes of structured improvisation, in which Diaz-Infante combines several drifting ideas into a focused concrete image. Droning bass notes lie beneath a consonant harmony while the right hand searches out the desired path. The dissonant bottom, representing disorder, is supplanted by the increasingly lucid harmony and gentle melodic patterns. Jazz is existent not through a swinging rhythm or quoted historical context, but simply through the creative process and its accompanying imagery.

Each of the other pieces were freely improvised. “Thesis” is five minutes of inspired drama, introduced through mesmerizing chords that lay a foundation for the majesty that follows. “Synthesis” and “Antithesis” are each over ten minutes long; the latter includes vibrant percussive rhythms. Opposite the dreamy musings of “Thesis,” the piece drives in 4/4 with a variety that overlays several rhythmic patterns simultaneously.

A rubato album without constant toe-tapping rhythms will sometimes turn a listener away; however, both itz'at and Tepeu involve the creation of focused images that began in the composer's mind and resulted from his spontaneous performance.

François Couture, All Music Guide

On Tepeu the playing is very tonal, almost romantic at times.
Tepeu is the follow-up to Ernesto Diaz-Infante's 1997 release Itz'at: still solo piano improvisations, still a Mayan God name for a title (Tepeu is the Governor, the one who brings order to the universe). However, there are differences between the two. First, the improvisations on Tepeu are much longer, the title track reaching 22 minutes. Somehow, this format works against Diaz-Infante's light and simple playing and his reflexive moods. It feels like he's thinning the sauce out. Second difference: his playing is fuller (there are more notes). On Itz'at, the stripped-down minimal expression was leaving a sensation of pseudo-atonality, but on Tepeu the playing is very tonal, almost romantic at times. It draws the album closer to easy listening than avant-garde music. On the plus side, the more agile playing can convince anybody who doubted if Itz'at was a hoax (can he really play?) that Diaz-Infante does have some technique, although he will use it a lot more on his fourth solo piano CD Solus.