I have recently been listening to the new double-disc, large ensemble, thematic work by bonified avante guitarist, Dom Minasi. I have been periferally aware of Minasi for a while, hearing small amounts of his cd of re-interpretations of Ellington classics, but this is the first time I've really spent time with a work of his. He brings together a huge collection of NYC players in all sorts of different combinations, the larger of which are conducted 'comprovisations' (someone else's term, but I feel it applies). Many parts are very clearly composed, the musicians playing certain melody and harmony lines with a wonderfull blend of individuality in the voices and an overall sensitivity to the scope of the sound. Other areas are further out - Minasi likely gave them some ideas of what to do, but he probably didn't do it in standard notation - graphic notation (follow the sqiggly line through the page) seems more likely to me. Finally there is the level of playing that perhaps is signature to Minasi, which is the half-muted-strings-with-frenetic-tremello-picking thing, which the many guest have little trouble in matching. All through out the two discs, the players do a real job of bringing out these different energy levels so as to communicate real drama, which, tied with humour, is what this monumental piece is all about.
One of the most enjoyable things for me to hear in this recording is the expansion of sonorities and pitch movements. When you take alot of players with strong voices and throw them together into a musical-system-breaking arrangement, you end up with alot of beautiful things happening that couldn't be expressed in our 12-tone system on which we have trained our musical intellects. This music is avant garde because it reaches beyond the approaches that have the stood the test of a certain amount of time and intuitively moves past even the intent of the instrument makers into the future of our ears and percepts.
The majority of the players I am unfamiliar with but I was excited to see John Gunther on as a guest on tenor. When I was living in Colorado in high school, I was fortunate enough to have some time with John as a combo instructor and inspiration. He is a very musical player and one of the kindest musicians I've been aquainted with. He is currently teaching at CU Boulder and I ran into him at the microtonal concert we just played at Old Main Hall on the campus. The other name I know is Mathew Shipp, appearing on just one track, but lending his pianistic magic generously.
This work is really worth a listen if you have some open ears to what music can communicate. It is a very accomplished balance of so many different impressions, and is good for a little ear refreshment, or a slap in the face, depending where you are....