The Abstractions - "Sonic Conspiracy" (Edgetone Records 2002, EDT4012)
Left Coast Improv Group - "April-May 2002" (Edgetone Records 2002, EDT4014)
From Aural Innovations #21 (October 2002)
The vibrancy of the California free-improv scene never ceases to amaze me. Not only is there a large number of talented and creative musicians but they love to collaborate in a seemingly endless variety of combinations. Two such ensembles recently released on the Edgetone label are The Abstractions and The Left Coast Improv Group.
The Abstractions are a quintet consisting of Ernesto Diaz-Infante on guitar, piano, voice and other gadgets, Scott R. Looney on percussion, Bob Marsh on vibes, violin and voice, Rent Romus on alto & soprano saxophone, and Jesse Quattro on vocals.
The music is divided between standard Out-Jazz assaults and more abstract experimental workouts. This isn't one of those subdued performances where the focus is on the sounds themselves. We're treated to killer musicianship from all participants who come together in a rocking avant free-jazz whole. But what gives The Abstractions their character is Quattro's vocals which at times sounds like anguished renditions of Gilli Smyth's space whispers, at others are similar to Ernesto's string scratching techniques, and at their most aggressive sound desperately in need of an exorcist. Think Jarboe for jazz. (I'll have to check out Quattro's other bands, the thrash metal improv group Saint of Killers and the grindcore band Carniceria.) But the effect is magnificent and fits the playing style of the ensemble like a glove. One moment the musicians will be taking a breather playing peaceful jazz peppered with tinkling vibes that sound like one of the back alleys of Mr Roger's neighborhood, and with a quiet anguish emanating from Quattro. Then in an instant they'll launch into an offensive that rivals Naked City at its harshest. Highly recommended.
A completely different project that includes members of The Abstractions is the second release from The Left Coast Improv Group. On April-May 2002 the lineup includes Ernesto Diaz-Infante on guitar, Ron Heglin on trombone and voice, Jeff Hobbs on violin, cornet and alto clarinet, Scott R. Looney on computer electronics, Bob Marsh on cello, Jim Ryan on flute, kilimba and percussion, and Karen Stackpole on percussion and gongs.
The music is orchestral, spirited and highly animated, some of which brought to mind avant-garde interpretations of the best of Carl Stallings soundtracks. A sense of theme and image creation prevails throughout and the tension levels rise and fall as the musicians occupy their own individual spaces, though always functioning as a synchronous whole. Other pieces have a more composed feel and there's some spoken word, some of which sounds like Italian. Stylistically this is a very different set than The Abstractions, though the musicianship and performances are equal in excitement. The best improvised music can only be properly savored and digested with repeated listens and both of these releases will reward the attentive listener with each subsequent spins.
For more information you can visit the Edgetone Records web site at:
Contact via snail mail c/o Gert Rude Music; PO Box 2281; El Cerrito, CA 94530.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz