On "The Sweet Volcano," the debut release from Icker Records, acclaimed cellist Matt Turner and pianist Greg Pagel explore a unique space between the worlds of improvised music and the European classical tradition. The album is a series of free improvisations drawing inspiration from composers such as Schöenberg, Varèse, Ives, Stravinsky and Crumb, while keeping true to the adventurous spirit of free jazz.
The depth of the rapport between these two should come as no surprise. Pagel and Turner are both graduates of New England Conservatory and the Conservatory at Lawrence University, having studied with many of the same teachers, including Joe Maneri and Ran Blake. Both are seasoned jazz veterans who also frequently perform both traditional and contemporary classical music. Having played together for over a decade, they speak the same musical language, and this recording shows that they are able to spontaneously compose as a single musical mind, creating works both coherent and whimsical.
The music here is largely atonal, but never chaotic. The variety of textures is extreme, but even when verging on the avant-garde (both players employ a variety of extended techniques), lyricism is never abandoned. The moods range from pensive (as on "Widow’s Watch") to ferocious (as on "Scherzo") to spiritual (as on "Gloaming").
"The Sweet Volcano" takes us where improvisation can go but seldom does. Enjoy the journey.
WHAT SOME ARE SAYING:
"...The two artists show in exemplary fashion how the improvisation-new music nexus can be arced together in a welding of white-hot creativity. This set of music is not avant jazz exactly, nor is it avant classical, but something in between.
The flow of musical ideas is continual and the technical assuredness of the player-instant-composers is such that there is a near one-to-one idea to execution ratio, all in real time.
That, at least, is the impression I get after having listened to the disk in depth. Turner soars, Pagel broods and asserts, and it comes across with exceptional success.
If you might imagine some of the titan composers of yesterday in the throes of spontaneous improvisatory musical speech, some of it might have sounded something like this--except of course no doubt not so modern. This is how the music impresses me.
...If you like categories creatively colliding in your listening here is an excellent example. I look forward to more of it!" - Gapplegate Music Review
"Edgy and angular... but also surprisingly lyrical... imaginitively captures the boundless creative spirit of improvisational cello in the hands of a gifted artist." - Strings magazine
"A powerful example of the breadth of expression and beauty accessible to the disciplined improvisor." - Justin Jones, The Lawrentian
“Authoritarian, boisterous, impetuous, exploratory, frequently cacophonous, this stark collection of improvisations effortlessly transcends genre and yet is consistently intimate and welcoming. This is a tone dialogue and the story Matt and Greg have to tell is compelling and urgent. The title track, divided into three parts, is a many hued swatch that oscillates between anxiety and inquisitiveness.” - Cedar Creek Radio
"'The Sweet Volcano' has Turner performing richly euphonious improvisations with pianist Greg Pagel, several of which call late-Romantic duos to mind. Be that as it may, both gents can produce straightforward music up there with the best. A few of the disc’s tracks would appear to belie the statement that '[a]ll selections are improvised with no editing.' Others, on the wilder side, tend to confirm." - Signor Scardanelli, La Folia