David Fiuczynski — Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian MicroJam!
(RareNoise RNR058, 2016, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2016-04-05
Guitarist David Fiuczynski is probably best known for his acrobatic, highly technical playing, but this release finds him in very different territory. The “Microjam” part of the title refers to the prominence of microtones in this music, with Fiuczynski playing fretless guitar, Jack Sherman using “microtonal keyboard” (which often sounds like an oddly-tuned Rhodes electric piano), and a variety of instruments capable of executing the pitches between the notes of equal-tempered scales: violin, suona (a Chinese double-reed instrument), and percussion. The other element that features prominently in the arrangements is birdsong, with recordings of quite a few different species making appearances. Thus, a title like “Loon-y Tunes” is literally accurate and does not refer to classic cartoons. Other factors are composer Olivier Messaien, who was known to have been inspired by birdsong, and the rhythmic style of hip-hop producer James “JDilla” Yancy. If you’re guessing at this point that Flam! Is fairly distant from mainstream jazz or rock, you are quite correct. There are a few tracks that lean a bit more to the jazz side, such as “Uira Happy Jam,” which features a drum kit and guest Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto sax, though no one would ever mistake it for a George Benson tune. The way mallet instruments are used often brings to mind gamelan music, but this is truly like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Fiuczynski released an earlier “microjam” album in 2012, but I missed it when it came out. Among other things, Flam! provides a working model for one way to successfully use microtones in music that’s not wholly alien to Western ears. It’s also a blending of Western styles with music from other parts of the world that doesn’t shoehorn the subtleties of non-even-tempered scales into even-tempering in order to appeal to Western ears and be easily playable on standard instruments. It’s a fascinating and enjoyable listen from start to finish, and should continue to reveal new details for many repeats to come.
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more