New Dynamics cs362









A decision to write about something, at least as articulated above, is often already premised on a decision to hear something. The experience of encountering compelling music spontaneously can be special, but unfortunately, my circumstances are such that this very rarely happens. To find something I'll particularly enjoy, I generally have to notice & select an opportunity first, whether that's going to a location (venue), getting a recording (physical or otherwise), or even reading someone's recommendations. The latter usually involves making further choices (rather than adopting the entire list of recommendations wholesale). The contours of the present project provide me with some guidance, in terms of which productions are more likely to fit, but as such a project-based approach immediately suggests, there's a risk of confirming my own biases & so missing experiences that might well be exemplary. One might say that my personal familiarity creates its own resonance conditions. I try to counter this pull by listening occasionally to something that seems like it'll be totally different from my usual material, but even that sense of difference or unfamiliarity is obviously itself conditioned by familiarity — i.e. as an exception. (But sometimes that random object does pull me in a new direction.)

Within such a context, one might describe a record label as instantiating a set of recommendations: The editor or editors have recommended these recordings, for one reason or another. There are then labels with a history of releasing albums I enjoy, and so of course I pay further attention. Even still, there are usually choices involved: I don't want to commit to hearing everything, and maybe not even everything that seems to fit the "contours" of this project, as I put it above. I mention this situation not only because it relates closely to some of the "process" (or practice) ideas that I've been articulating around self formation, but because Creative Sources is once again my subject, and it offers a canonical example of such a label-based set of recommendations: The volume of releases is high — I count twenty-five so far this year, more or less — and they generally appear with no description. I'm not sure how well some album descriptions (or reviews, for that matter) really serve to improve my choice of what to hear, since they might e.g. emphasize features I find tangential to such desires. However, no description at all, particularly when the albums involve musicians with whom I am not otherwise familiar (and for that matter, having heard someone in a couple of settings hardly serves to indicate everything they might ever do), puts a rather stark edge on the issue of choice. I've nudged Creative Sources label editor Ernesto Rodrigues for suggestions, but he seems reluctant to offer them, perhaps because such suggestions might have too much effect on feedback he subsequently receives — reciprocal to the issues I've raised here. I don't know. (And, after all, by definition, he is recommending all of his recordings anyway. Is it fair to highlight some over others?) In any case, I continue to make my choices, some more informed (with the dangerous resonance that implies) than others, and hear a subset of new Creative Sources albums. (One of the contours of my practice continues to be a high priority on new productions.)

All that said, I've particularly enjoyed the recent improvised quartet album New Dynamics by Roland Ramanan, Nuno Torres, Ernesto Rodrigues, & Bernardo Álvares. An obvious point of comparison for this album is last year's Nor, considering that it shares two of the musicians & uses the same set of instruments. (Both albums also have three medium-length tracks.) Indeed, I had trouble finding precedents for these two-wind & two-string quartets, although one wouldn't say that such an ensemble seems radical. It would be equally wrong to say that the instrumental constitution creates a certain mood, as well, since the moods are rather different on these albums. There is, however, as one might imagine, a distinct "chamber" quality, even if extended technique is common. So whereas Nor includes Berlin improvisers Axel Dörner & Alexander Frangenheim, New Dynamics instead includes Roland Ramanan & Bernardo Álvares. (It would be wrong to call them substitutes. It is, dare I say it, a new dynamic.) Álvares was totally unknown to me, and I didn't find any substantial information about him online; I assume that he is Portuguese. I did have some familiarity with Ramanan, a longtime member of the London Improvisers Orchestra, from his album Zubeneschamali, released on Leo Records (about which some similar things could be said, especially that Leo releases many appealing albums) in 2014, with Tom Jackson & Daniel Thompson from the trio on Hunt at the Brook. I thought that Ramanan's trumpet kind of dominated that album, which along with e.g. Compost by another related ensemble, explores the acoustic space of a church: There is a sense of finding separate spaces for the members of the trio that also informs the quartet on New Dynamics, even if its space isn't contextualized by architecture per se. (How such a notion relates to the fake "spray" amid empty/monolithic architecture on the cover graphic, I don't know, but it does seem vaguely related.) Individual instruments are generally more discernible than on many albums on which Rodrigues participates, and so one might speak more of counterpoint on New Dynamics than of notions such as the soundscape. There is also a more concrete sense of presence & projection than on Nor, which focuses more on immanent emergence: Indeed, the latter, perhaps in keeping with its partial Berlin roots, has almost an ascetic or severe quality (one might even say Nietzschean), including some higher pitches & harmonics, more percussive attacks, etc. (The trumpet "calls," in the sense used in the discussion of Neutral Nation in this space earlier this month, remain immanent to an emerging landscape, rather than actually emerging or transcending.) New Dynamics thus comes off as more human (dialogic, even) & worldly than environmental, and one might ask what new sorts of dynamics emerge. Different instruments suggest their own different temporalities: By this, I mean generally speaking that the way one interacts with a particular instrument, the way it interfaces with the body, the way it resonates, has a particular temporality or time-scale. One can play slower or faster, but within limits, and there are temporal regions that "fit" the instrument better than others. One could further say that these sorts of relations are often explored in soundscape-type ensembles, but without necessarily seeking a common temporality by which to articulate a counterpoint. (In other words, there must be some temporal relation or correspondence in order to have counterpoint.) New Dynamics does this in a rather human way, including dodecaphony, while still respecting the differing temporal dynamics of the instruments — which, helpfully, are not all that different in the first place. (In this seeming "human" emphasis, then, it differs from e.g. Sediment, a quartet album that otherwise maintains a similarly resolute acoustic stance & pace of interaction.) So a new language of improvised, contrapuntal quartet interaction? That's compelling. (And just how contingent was my hearing of this album in the first place? I cannot really say.) 23 May 2016. Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts

On a connu le trompettiste londonien Roland Ramanan comme « improvisateur soliste » il y a une quinzaine d’années dans son propre Roland Ramanan Quartet en compagnie de Marcio Mattos au violoncelle, de Simon H Fell à la contrebasse et de Mark Sanders à la batterie (Shaken Emanem 4081 et Cesura Emanem 4123). On avait noté à l’époque que Cesura se rapprochait de l’improvisation libre collective, tendance confirmée en 2014 par Zubeneschamali, un excellent enregistrement en trio avec le clarinettiste Tom Jackson et le guitariste Daniel Thompson (Leo Records 700, chroniqué par votre serviteur). Ce penchant pour une musique de chambre improvisée pleine de détails, d’interactions, toute en finesse et subtilité où plusieurs techniques alternatives et étendues sont développées et combinées les unes aux autres, s’affirme ici dans le bien nommé New Dynamics. Le violoniste alto Ernesto Rodrigues, Nuno Torres, le saxophoniste explorateur attitré de ses péripéties, et le contrebassiste Bernardo Alvares se révèlent être des partenaires de choix dans cette direction. Comme je l’ai signalé dans des chroniques précédentes, si le travail de Rodrigues témoign(ai)ent d’un radicalisme « ultra » en matière d’improvisation , il a appris à adapter son jeu intransigeant à la démarche de ses partenaires en enrichissant sa palette sonore et musicale sans trahir sa démarche. En outre, il a le chic pour inclure systématiquement de nouvelles personnalités dans les projets qu’il publie sur son label Creative Sources. Et ce qui frappe dans ces New Dynamics, c’est la pertinence des audaces sonores du trompettiste, assumant les difficultés inhérentes à son instrument en métamorphosant, travestissant, sublimant le son de la trompette avec l’aide de sourdines, de vocalisations, d’écrasements de la colonne d’air, faisant éclater le registre aigu sans un cri et traduisant certaines nuances sonores des cordes dans le détail de son jeu. Aussi, il a une belle imagination n’hésitant pas à émettre des propositions fortes et tranchées qu’il transforme ensuite spontanément pour rejoindre le flux du collectif. Encore une fois, les interventions toujours renouvelées d’Ernesto à l’alto, se jouent des paramètres de l’instrument et font monter les enchères. Il a un art consommé pour jouer à l’écart de la note en glissant peu ou prou ou faisant scintiller les harmoniques. Une véritable inspiration pour ses collègues plus jeunes. Le saxophoniste Nuno Torres souffle dans la marge de l’instrument, étonnamment discret et intelligemment présent. Le contrebassiste Bernardo Alvares choisit son matériau avec pertinence avec, entre autres, des frottements soigneusement irisés qui s’intègrent bien au groupe et agissent comme une facteur d’unification des forces en présence.
C’est dans un climat de confiance et d’écoute que chacun contribue au mieux à cette suite de trois improvisations (I, II, III) en se montrant complètement en phase dans cet ensemble subtilement interactif. Savoir arrêter un élan, une phrase, s’écarter ou se rejoindre, faire de la place pour autrui, réagir en surprenant sont les maîtres mots de cette démarche improvisée. Une belle réussite enregistrée à Lisbonne en mars 2016. Jean-Michel van Schouwburg (Orynx)