LINER NOTES by John Corbett
Every significant cultural production represents a complex intersection of storylines, a tangle of lineages. These crossing paths may start out relatively independent of one another, at least until they meet, at which point they become inextricably intertwined. In Buddhism, this is explained in the principles of dependent origination, which suggests that nothing comes from out of nowhere, and interdependency, which further insists on the relatedness of all things, their ultimate ontological reciprocity. Things are in a constant state of becoming, transforming, mutating, hybridizing. Existing lines meet; new possibilities are made manifest.
Maybe this is a heavy way to start the liner notes for such a lovely, ambitious, unpresumptuous CD as Brooklyn Lines . . . Chicago Spaces. Listening to KLANG, however, I am immediately taken with the way that various paths meet in the group’s approach, not just the two geographical locations of the title, but a whole host of stylistic and strategic storylines.
Two of those lines commence with Ornette Coleman in the late 1950s; Coleman’s approach, it should be said, did not originate independently, but extends another set of intersecting lines, from bebop and jump blues and nursery rhymes and birdsong. Let’s look at the lineages that emanate from Ornette. The first spools out via the John Carter groups; Carter took the freebop idea, expanded and elaborated on it, his clarinet solos presenting a whole new way of considering the instrument, and his complex, multi-part compositions hinting at fresh potential structures for improvisation. Out of Carter, we can locate part of the 1990s Chicago sound, the part primarily associated with Ken Vandermark, whose work picked up on some of those potential structures and instrumental approaches and further extended them.
Unfurl that line a little further, remaining in the Windy City, and you find James Falzone, a sensational clarinetist and a thoughtful composer with an effortless touch all his own. On Brooklyn Lines . . . Chicago Spaces, Falzone and crew develop a sound that they’ve been cultivating since 2006, over the course of three previous records, including two – Tea Music (2009) and Other Doors (2011) – on his Allos Documents label, a sound that can be plotted on that Three-C (Coleman-Carter-Chicago) storyline. Listen to “Ukrainian Village,” and you hear the condensed, compressed essence of this tradition, with a soaring, slightly swaggering melody, complex compositional twists and turns, open improvisation, and a deft bop undertow, courtesy of drummer Tim Daisy and bassist Jason Roebke, both youthful veterans of the ‘90s Chicago scene. The three-piece suite, “Alone at the Brain,” “Jazz Searching Self,” and “It Felt As If Time Had Stopped,” written in homage to one of the current scene’s great supporters, the critic (and most consistent patron of key Chi-town venue The Hungry Brain) Larry Kart, lends yet more weight to KLANG as a glorious part of this tradition.
Now, bear with me while I suggest that we can start another lineage back with Ornette, this time tracking out not through John Carter, but through Roscoe Mitchell. Quite a different conceptual trajectory here, not so much rooted in the postbop tradition (even though Mitchell’s early quartet was deeply dedicated to Ornette), but plunging into sound and space, the intricacies of sonority, little instruments, possibilities of non-swinging improvised music. Here I think we can immediately see some potential connections directly to Falzone, who is also an accomplished performer of contemporary classical music. Distilled in the two episodes of freely improvised “Chicago Spaces,” with Jason Adasiewicz’s bowed vibraphone, Roebke’s burping cracklebox, Daisy’s multi-directional metallics, and Falzone’s wide-open wood, the ghosts of the AACM and continental improvised music rendezvous with Olivier Messiaen and Pierre Henry, marking a beautiful, unheard station on the Coleman-Mitchell express.
But I think there’s another vital lineage that intersects with these two Ornette lines, one that starts with Jimmy Giuffre. The light swing of “Carol’s Burgers” nods at early Giuffre, but what insinuates itself throughout the disc is the commanding low-dynamic jazz sound that Giuffre pioneered on records with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow, and even more his even-tempered approach to the clarinet. Falzone shares that un-stressed proclivity; he rarely strays from the natural range of the horn, and when he does it’s never strangled or shrill. Like Ben Goldberg, he’s able to extract a full range of energies from the clarinet, moving only into altissimo on occasion, and when he does it’s still quite controlled. If this gives the proceedings a less explosive palette than other contemporary Chicagoans, it is also part of the specific quality of KLANG, an aspect of holding something in reserve. An aesthetic asset that signals their affinity with the Giuffre line.
Three lineages cross, bound together in this vibrant new statement from Falzone and KLANG. The group’s origination may be dependent on those storylines, but for that it’s not at all unoriginal. On the intricate theme and searching improvisations of the opening cut, the clarinetist’s unique insights as a player and composer are immediately evident. In the intimate interplay of the ensemble, perhaps we glimpse a further sense of the immanence of interdependency. Every human development, even innovation, originates in something else; everything in real time, even dissonance, expresses a relationship with others.
Being rooted doesn’t mean repeating. Each line moves forwards, doesn’t slacken.
John Corbett, Chicago
Recorded February 9, 2012 at Electrical Audio in Chicago
Engineered by Greg Norman
Mixed by James Falzone, Greg Norman, Jason Adasiewicz, and Jason Roebke
Mastering by Collin Jordan at The Boiler Room in Chicago
Cover collage by Johanna Winter Harper, 2012
Many thanks to the team of people who brought this project to fruition including Greg Norman and all the folks at Electrical Audio, Collin Jordan at The Boiler Room, John Corbett, and Scott Menhinick at Improvised Communications. Additional thanks to Nate Wooley, Dominic Lash and Harris Eisenstadt for trying some of this music out in summer 2011. Extra thanks to Johanna Winter Harper and David Sampson for such elegant images.
In gratitude for their support of KLANG there are several dedications on this recording; “Ukrainian Village” is dedicated to Mike Griffin, “Chicago Spaces” is dedicated to Donna Tadelman, “Carol’s Burgers” is dedicated to Carol Dubas, and “Alone at the Brain,” “Jazz Searching Self,” and “It Felt As If Time Had Stopped,” are all dedicated to Larry Kart.