Music

Klang: Brooklyn Lines... Chicago Spaces

Clarinet/Vibes Quartet... whimsical and daring at once.


Klang

Brooklyn Lines... Chicago Spaces

Label: Allos Documents
US Release Date: 2012-09-18
UK Release Date: 2012-09-18
Label website
Amazon
iTunes

Bands featuring a clarinet up front are still rare enough in modern jazz. Add that the chording instrument is the vibraphone and you're in even more unusual space. There's ancient history (Benny Goodman playing with Lionel Hampton), or you might point to Ralph Peterson's more recent "Fo'tet", which once featured Don Byron. This band is not much like either of those groups, however.

Klang is led by James Falzone's clarinet and has made three prior recordings. Fellow Chicagoans Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Jason Roebke (bass) and Tim Daisy (drums) round out the group. The better points of connection are Ornette Coleman and Jimmy Giuffre, I suppose, or the kind of robust but accessible free jazz that is associated with The Windy City: Ken Vandermark or, ancient history now, the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Klang is more than happy to get out beyond the boundaries of traditional harmony, but Falzone is hardly a wild man: he is eager to keep you happy and interested in what's going on.

What distinguishes this group is what might be called a precise and tidy approach to freedom. "Jazz Searching Itself", for example, is as neat as pin—a super-crisp theme that has the band playing in very careful coordination. The theme is tricky and quick with no loose ends at all, the drummer and bass player required to step to precision as much as the melody players. But this short theme also explodes with different elements of time and harmony such that it never sounds like an old-fashioned exercise in bop. It is sandwiched between two other pieces in a suite—"Alone at the Brain" moves mysteriously like a Mingus or Dolphy composition, modulating suddenly from quiet to loud, and "It Felt As If Time Had Stopped" is a mournful ballad that is no less careful in setting exact parts for the vibes and bass before giving way to a dark and thrilling solo for vibes. Every step of this music, you know, has been thought through, even though the improvisations are "free".

Not that Falzone and company can't get up a certain reckless kind of groove. "Ukrainian Village" has a rumbling walking bass and clattering drums sound that sounds like a dark sort of jazz before it shifts to a moment of precision, followed by some thumping free-funk. It's equally telling that the middle of this tune becomes tempo-less—starting with a high clarinet trill that the whole band takes up and developing into a free-time vibes solo that allows Adasiewicz to solo like Cecil Taylor with a pair of mallets.

In other places, Falzone's background in classical music comes through, showing some of the Giuffre influence. "Ground" sets us a couple of lyrical, interlocking patterns for reach of the four voices. The improvisation, however, is collective and daring—the farthest thing from any "third stream" music. "Blue Jays" is a theme in 5/4 time, a neat little puzzle that contorts the rhythm as it changes and moves through phases, a wheel-within-a-wheel piece. But then "Carol's Burgers" is fun swinger that taps your toe for you, including neat little drum breaks and a 32-bar harmonic structure pretty darn close to "I Got Rhythm". Fun!

There is, perhaps, an inevitable delicacy to the basic sound of Klang. Falzone's clarinet has a variety of different tones, from woody and low to more strident, and Adasiewicz certainly conjures a multitude of sounds: harsh and metallic to thrumming and chill. But it remains that this kind of band creates a "chamber jazz" sound that favors a certain kind of cool. I'll admit that, as fine and imaginative as this recording is, it feels a bit like a meal of tapas—wonderful and flavorful and maybe just slightly less filling than I wish. But that's nitpicking.

As with so much of the best jazz in the last decade, Klang has no interest whatsoever in the old jazz battles between different camps or schools. These are musicians equally at home with freedom and notation, jazz and "new music", dissonance and languid beauty. The ostinato bass line of "Sciuridae" is fun to listen to, but so are the totally free improvisations called "Chicago Spaces". The music here blurs and blends. It's not smooth or background-y, but it's no chore to listen to either.

Falzone has much in common with the finest folks in his generation of jazz players—a daring ability to make this art music both ambitious and delightful. Klang deserves an audience well beyond both Chicago and Brooklyn.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image