Three gigs in one week from the finest improvising clarinetist in Chicago, who is also one of the top genre-crossing reedmen in the country; that warrants a little notice, don’t you think?
James Falzone is probably best known for his inside-out quartet KLANG, whose 2009 album Tea Music made several “best of” lists (including one of my own). But his expertise and curiosity allow him to stretch from traditional to modern in both classical music and jazz, with forays into folk and liturgical music as well. In fact, he’s created the overarching concept of “Allos Musica,” which borrows the Latin word for “other,” to describe the wide range of his artistic endeavors.
That concept was on display Tuesday night at the Chicago Cultural Center, where Falzone led a unique grouping of Chicago musicians: unique in the sense that these four had not previously performed as a quartet, although all the musicians are well acquainted through separate collaborations. The band comprised Jason Stein on bass clarinet and two of the new-music scene’s most reliable usual suspects, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics and Frank Rosaly on drums. More about that below the photo.
Wednesday and Thursday, Falzone gets to shine in more familiar contexts, and I heartily recommend either or both performances.
Top Ten in Chicago Jazz for 2009
KLANG makes midwest tour
Tonight at The Hideout, Falzone will offer a solo clarinet set at 10, followed by his participation in a set by drummer Rosaly’s band Cicada Music. Rosaly formed this band without knowing it: having assembled the musicians to perform his score for a documentary film (Scrappers), he later decided that the grouping held potential for greater exploration. This sextet sports a front-line portrait of the clarinet family: Falzone on soprano clarinet, Stein on bass clarinet, and Keefe Jackson on the rarely seen contrabass clarinet. With vibist Jason Adasiewicz and bassist Jason Roebke, it makes for a wholly unusual instrumental palette – woodsy and shadowed, with hints of moonlight.
Falzone brings KLANG to the Elastic Improvised Music Series tomorrow, for two loosely structured sets (also starting at 10). The plan is to feature all four members of the band – vibist Adasiewicz, bassist Roebke, and drummer Tim Daisy – in a carousel of groupings, breaking the band into duos and trios, as well as a capella performances by each of the members.
The Clarinet family, including soprano (far left), bass (second from right), and contrabass (far right)
Back to last night’s performance at the Cultural Center.
The piece created by Falzone and company used a 4th-century plainchant as its foundation. That’s not your usual basis for jazz improvisation – or for pretty much anything else, actually. Dating two centuries earlier than Gregorian chant, this source material was chosen by Falzone as a correlative to the evening’s opening piece: “Being Dufay,” composer Ambrose Field’s multi-media meditation on sacred (and some secular) music by 15th-century French composer Guillaume Dufay.
Because of the European flight cancellations, neither Field nor the principal performer for his piece (tenor John Potter) could make the trip to Chicago; instead, the audience sat through a remixed recording of “Being Dufay” while watching the impressive and at times mesmerizing visual accompaniment (by video artist Michael Lynch).
The video made the music almost bearable: laboriously performed and didactically altered with layered sounds and electronic voicings, Field’s adaptation of Dufay’s music subsumed the original pieces’ naked purity under the weight of his additions. Fittingly, the disk player projecting this work encountered a technical problem after about a half-hour, and came to a stuttering digital halt – as if the weight of the production had simply overwhelmed its processing ability. (By then, several listeners had left the hall, which for a free concert is never a good sign.)
After that, even the slow-moving, at times meditative piece created by Falzone and his cohorts seemed to take wing.