Tag Archives: Ned Rothenberg

Touching Extrenes review by Massimo Ricci

DENMAN MARONEY QUINTET – Udentity (CF 137)
Pianist (or “hyperpianist”? Hold on, please) Denman Maroney is clearly trustful in the abilities of an average mind. Trying to explain the polyrhythmic concepts that underscore the large part of this music, he says that “there are at least two and more often three tempos going; the listener is free to choose which one(s) to relate to”. Perhaps this musician is not aware of the fact that the majority of a typical audience is not even able to stay anchored to a rudimentary 4/4 with a couple of shifted accents, let alone a superimposition of composed metres. Many pathetic characters come out with various kinds of bullshit about complex mathematic “mysteries” underlying the perfection of the universe, yet they could not name an interval or an elementary beat if threatened at gunpoint. Such sorts of involuntary victims of artistic diversity are not likely to be grateful for the labyrinthine qualities of this excellent album. Hell, this group doesn’t swing, if not for an allowed minimum.

Right, the hyperpiano. Besides numerous interlocking figurations executed with concentrated investigational attitude, Maroney – who appears positively gifted with a scintillating musicality coming from the insides of his brain – frequently plays the “regular” keyboard with a hand while enjoying the pleasures of extended techniques with another, the whole enhanced by the exploitation of several objects on the strings which generate “complementary overtones that move in contrary motion, one down toward the fundamental and the other up toward infinity”. Already fantasizing in regard to enhancement of awareness and realization? Wrong: the record’s title is the contraption of “undertone identity”, a concept introduced by Harry Partch which is too complicated to tackle in a sheer review. You can still learn the definition and use it in your intellectual conversations: nobody – except a few brighter individuals – go actually checking for the truthful core of these things, otherwise a lot of sapient icons would be swallowed by the very blob of their appalling ignorance.

Let’s not digress, though: the quintet performs fabulously throughout Udentity. Ned Rothenberg (alto sax, clarinets) employs a toothsome transitoriness in the methods applied, alternating altruistic repetition bathed in cutting dissonance and interchangeable anti-patterns which dignify the entire timbral tissue. He’s perfectly corresponding to the trumpet of Dave Ballou, who on a different side of the blowing spectrum avoids any kind of hypertrophic irresponsibleness, privileging lines that – although extremely respectful of the composer’s original plan – shine for intelligent restraint. If Michael Sarin’s drumming is entirely perfect for the overall design of these creations, his sober delivery a true injunction against the smell of moth-eaten “flexibility” characterizing the bulk of jazz drummers, bassist Reuben Radding is to be admired both as a solid donor of corpulent foundations for the general structure and an extemporaneous originator of bedazzling melodic sketches in places where an arcoed elegy is probably going to lead a sensitive receiver to deeper perceptions than an innocuous “pulse”.

Just to give a vague idea of how this stuff sounds, let me tell you that those whose ear-training includes Stravinsky and Zappa should greet this CD pretty warmly. Maroney has managed to tickle our interest with complications that sound good, lively, natural, without a hint of agony. Discomposure and angst are to be found somewhere else; here, we only appreciate an outstanding collective control over a series of well-developed strategies.
http://www.touchingextremes.blogspot.com/

Touching Extrenes review by Massimo Ricci

CF 137DENMAN MARONEY QUINTET – Udentity (CF 137)
Pianist (or “hyperpianist”? Hold on, please) Denman Maroney is clearly trustful in the abilities of an average mind. Trying to explain the polyrhythmic concepts that underscore the large part of this music, he says that “there are at least two and more often three tempos going; the listener is free to choose which one(s) to relate to”. Perhaps this musician is not aware of the fact that the majority of a typical audience is not even able to stay anchored to a rudimentary 4/4 with a couple of shifted accents, let alone a superimposition of composed metres. Many pathetic characters come out with various kinds of bullshit about complex mathematic “mysteries” underlying the perfection of the universe, yet they could not name an interval or an elementary beat if threatened at gunpoint. Such sorts of involuntary victims of artistic diversity are not likely to be grateful for the labyrinthine qualities of this excellent album. Hell, this group doesn’t swing, if not for an allowed minimum.

Right, the hyperpiano. Besides numerous interlocking figurations executed with concentrated investigational attitude, Maroney – who appears positively gifted with a scintillating musicality coming from the insides of his brain – frequently plays the “regular” keyboard with a hand while enjoying the pleasures of extended techniques with another, the whole enhanced by the exploitation of several objects on the strings which generate “complementary overtones that move in contrary motion, one down toward the fundamental and the other up toward infinity”. Already fantasizing in regard to enhancement of awareness and realization? Wrong: the record’s title is the contraption of “undertone identity”, a concept introduced by Harry Partch which is too complicated to tackle in a sheer review. You can still learn the definition and use it in your intellectual conversations: nobody – except a few brighter individuals – go actually checking for the truthful core of these things, otherwise a lot of sapient icons would be swallowed by the very blob of their appalling ignorance.

Let’s not digress, though: the quintet performs fabulously throughout Udentity. Ned Rothenberg (alto sax, clarinets) employs a toothsome transitoriness in the methods applied, alternating altruistic repetition bathed in cutting dissonance and interchangeable anti-patterns which dignify the entire timbral tissue. He’s perfectly corresponding to the trumpet of Dave Ballou, who on a different side of the blowing spectrum avoids any kind of hypertrophic irresponsibleness, privileging lines that – although extremely respectful of the composer’s original plan – shine for intelligent restraint. If Michael Sarin’s drumming is entirely perfect for the overall design of these creations, his sober delivery a true injunction against the smell of moth-eaten “flexibility” characterizing the bulk of jazz drummers, bassist Reuben Radding is to be admired both as a solid donor of corpulent foundations for the general structure and an extemporaneous originator of bedazzling melodic sketches in places where an arcoed elegy is probably going to lead a sensitive receiver to deeper perceptions than an innocuous “pulse”.

Just to give a vague idea of how this stuff sounds, let me tell you that those whose ear-training includes Stravinsky and Zappa should greet this CD pretty warmly. Maroney has managed to tickle our interest with complications that sound good, lively, natural, without a hint of agony. Discomposure and angst are to be found somewhere else; here, we only appreciate an outstanding collective control over a series of well-developed strategies.
http://touchingextremes.blogspot.com/2009/11/denman-maroney-quintet-udentity.html

Cadence Magazine review by Jason Bivins

CF 138
Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet – Ancient and Future Airs (CF 138 )


CF 137
Denman Maroney Quintet – Udentity (CF 137)

Dunmall’s visit to New York’s The Living Theater (1) finds him in a slightly unfamiliar setting given his recent work on Slam. With a trio of longtime associates, this Vision Festival set finds him in a more reflective mood alongside Malaby, whose blend of melancholy and fire has become ever more singular of late (not least in his work in Helias’ Open Loose trio). Norton’s vibes are absolutely central to the textural range of these long pieces. While “Ancient Airs” opens rather slowly, the race is on after a while, with contrapuntalism firing up the engine. Dunmall and Malaby make for a wonderfully contrastive tenor tandem, fierce in the right measure without resorting to mere burning. I reckon it’s hard not to wail once Norton hits the traps and gets things churning with Helias, but this music never loses its focus and there’s always something lyrical happening. As ever, I find it quite an exhilarating experience when Dunmall rocks the pipes, but he does so quite judiciously. After the piece plateaus, it sounds as if the band is cycling through some refracted version of Coltrane’s “One Up One Down,” audible especially with Malaby’s vertiginous solo at about the 35-minute mark. Helias’ sweet bass solo is pleasantly modal after the fury preceding it, and it cues up a somewhat (yes) airy ending. The second improvisation, at a mere 10 minutes, is a tad bitty and doesn’t really get going anywhere. But this one’s a keeper nonetheless.

Having long been a fan of Denman Maroney’s unique sound world—his “hyperpiano” is the most radically prepared innenklavier imaginable—I confess that it’s really only with this recording (2) that I realized how rhythmically acute a musician he is. His bowls, and buzzing devices, and blocks have created a richly tex-tured idiomatic extension of the piano, but these nuanced, percolating compositions are bouncing inventions that recall some fusion of Rothenberg’s Double Band, John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet, and Mark Dresser’s Force Green band from the 1990s (of which Maroney was a key member). This high praise is emphatically deserved. Beyond this general appraisal (and really, just go get this one), I have to give it up for the engine room specifically. Radding and the superb Sarin are so good, with power and grace combining almost imperceptibly, that you could risk overlooking everything else as you simply concentrate on their playing. But then there’s the exceptional contrast between the clarion lines Ballou reels out, and
Rothenberg’s intense playing, with horns as rhythmic generators fueled by circular breathing, overblowing, and more. And the tunes are pretty fabulous too, with the post Bop line on “II” sounding almost like a late 1960s Ornette tune. The loping pulse of “III” is a perfect context ready to be agitated by the heady sound of scraped metal, a continual staggering which eventuates in a stunningly inventive “piano trio” improvisation. Absolutely killer alien tones! There are soft percussive thwacks and layered tempi from the horns on “IV” and a post-Dave Burrell mutated stride thing that opens up “V.” The disc eventually loops back to the feel of beautifully fractured post Bop on “VII,” with a brilliant piano trio section again. A fantastic disc, and a strong candidate to show up on my year-end list.
©Cadence Magazine 2009 www.cadencebuilding.com

All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita

CF 137Denman Maroney Quintet – Udentity (CF 137)
In this fascinating 2009 release, leader Denman Maroney morphs the avant-garde implications of hyperpiano fare into a semi-structured progressive jazz endeavor with tunes that are largely melodic and uncannily attainable. The artist derives influence from avant-garde composers John Cage and Henry Cowell, who used nuts, bolts and other implements to perform on the piano via unconventional methodologies.

Maroney finds ways to exploit the piano’s mechanics by bowing, plucking and sliding on the strings with bowls, knives and other miscellany. His bizarre sounds intersect the jazz element without any clashes or train wrecks. Nonetheless, Maroney is a modernist who often straddles the free-form improvisational schema with many of the jazz world’s finest instrumentalists.

The quintet executes an odd-metered jazz-funk motif during the opening “Udentity I,” showing that the band aims to maintain an angular discourse amid subtle deviations and surprises along the way. Consequently, the musicians spawn a frothy sequence of movements, complete with winding themes and reverse engineering ventures. That factor is a pattern throughout, as Maroney slips, slides and intersects among the soloists’ exchanges and solo spots, while bassist Reuben Radding generates the pliant undercurrent.

Maroney is a cunning stylist and a strong composer within the progressive jazz idiom. “Udentity II” has a close relationship with John Coltrane’s classic “Blue Train” via a similar melody line, although the ensemble veers it off into a free-jazz meltdown, enhanced by Maroney’s slithery piano-string manipulations. Elsewhere, the pianist renders whirlwind interludes with his swirling chord progressions while projecting a rather illusionary mindset.

A few passages are built on dainty themes and unorthodox frameworks, in concert with trumpeter Dave Ballou and multi-reedman Ned Rothenberg’s yearning lines. This facet works wonders on “Udentity V,” as Maroney presents an off-kilter and fragmented muse to traditional jazz, nicely accented by Michael Sarin’s syncopated drum solo.

This is a formidable and rather enterprising slant on avant-jazz. Maroney merges the best of many musical worlds by seamlessly cross-referencing solid compositional platforms with improvisation and out-of-this-world hyperpiano articulations. It’s a masterful album, abetted by the leader’s ubiquitous implementations and forward-thinking impetus.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=32998

Jazz’n’More review by Jürg Solothurnmann

CF 137DENMAN MARONEY QUINTET – Udentity (CF 137) 
Note: 4

Der 60jährige New Yorker Maroney führt den Jazz ins 21. Jahrhundert. Zu seinen Lehrern gehörten Bill Dixon, der Perkussionist/Komponist John Bergamo und Elektroniker und Komponisten wie James Tenney und Morton Subotnick. Scott Joplin, Ellington, Monk und Ornette Coleman  inspirieren ihn ebenso wie John Cage, Stockhausen, Nancarrow und Messiaen. Was er „Hyperpiano“ nennt, ist ein stark präparierter Flügel, dessen Spielweisen er extrem entwickelt hat. Die Sounds der direkt bearbeiteten Saiten ergeben eigenartige Kontraste. Die gut kommunizierenden Rothenberg und Ballou, zwei Stammspieler bei Maroney, sind progressive komponierende Improvisatoren mit „Third Stream“-Erfahrung und einem hoch differenzierten Umgang mit Struktur und Klang. Und Sarin ist ebenfalls mehr als ein blosser Jazzdrummer. Die Bezeichnung „udentity“ für Identität der Untertöne stammt vom Komponisten Harry Partch. Maroney ist engagiert, aber nicht ohne Selbstironie. Seine Kompositionen „Udentity 1-7“ gehen bruchlos in ebenso vielschichtige Kollektivimprovisationen über mit Kombinationen schier disparater Elemente. Besonders frappant sind die Ueberlagerungen ungleicher Tempi und Rhythmen. „Udentity 1“ beginnt das z.B. wie verfremdeter Funk, und „Udentity 2“ bedient sich bei „Blue Trane“. Alles kann mit stilistisch und thematisch einen unerwarteten Verlauf nehmen. Zwar eine Knacknuss, aber auch nach mehrmaligem aufmerksamem Anhören entdeckt man noch Neues.

All About Jazz Italy by Enrico Bettinello

CF 137Denman Maroney – Udentity (CF 137)
****

Per Denman Maroney – musicista dalle eccellenti qualità e frequentazioni, anche se poco noto dalle nostre parti – il pianoforte è un “mondo” espanso, che si apre, tramite le preparazioni e le tecniche non convenzionali, a nuove avventure timbriche, armoniche e espressive. Uno dei risultati più riusciti di questo suo percorso viene condiviso con gli altri componenti di un quintetto completato dai sassofoni e clarinetti di Ned Rothenberg, dalla tromba di Dave Ballou e dalla spettacolare ritmica completata da Reuben Radding e Mike Sarin.
Suddiviso in sette parti e nominato secondo un termine coniato da Harry Partch che combina undertone e identity, questo Udentity è un lavoro davvero stimolante, che esplora relazioni numeriche temporali e armoniche, ma che coinvolge in particolare per la grande flessibilità tra i complessi aspetti formali e la libertà espressiva dei musicisti coinvolti.

Chiaro che con una simile “squadra” – già collaudata da precedenti collaborazioni del leader – le cose siano facilitate [Rothenberg è uno degli improvvisatori più originali e condivisivi dell’intera scena newyorkese], ma il merito va certamente ascritto anche a Maroney, che tinteggia di sonorità aliene e intriganti le mobili piattaforme ritmiche su cui si muove la musica.

Tra riff contagiosi e architetture sempre spiazzanti, Udentity rivela anche una straordinaria qualità emotiva, che smentisce senza troppo clamore il luogo comune secondo il quale le musiche più avventurose e sperimentali devo essere un po’ faticose all’ascolto. Il futuro del jazz passa anche da queste parti.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=3853

All About Jazz review by Marc Medwin

CF 137
Inside the Piano: Germinal; Gold; The Ill-Tempered Piano; Udentity 
 
Agusti Fernandez & Ingar Zach – Germinal (Plastic Strip)
Magda Mayas & Tony Buck – Gold (Creative Sources)
Nicola Cipani – The Ill-Tempered Piano (Long Song)
Denman Maroney – Udentity (CF 137)

Four very different approaches to the piano breed startling and fresh results and prove that there are still many avenues of inquiry and research available to those interested in the beloved 88.

In fact, use of the actual 88 keys is in relatively short supply on these albums. They become features of accent, just one of many ways to access the piano’s complex inner workings. They are used in the opening moments of pianist Agusti Fernandez’ chilling “Volutas” from Germinal, for example, but are then rapidly replaced by long-toned bowings. Throughout this astonishingly diverse disc, it is difficult to tell whether it is piano or Ingar Zach’s percussion that is responsible for individual timbres. The beautifully haunting “Arcano” swims by as glacial tones abound, the performers becoming a single entity.

Of similar interest but not nearly as sparse is Gold, the collaborative effort of pianist Magda Mayas and drummer Tony Buck. To say that the disc is more ‘traditional’ is only to affirm that the atomistic approach of ’60s ‘free’ jazz is in effect here, which has become a tradition in its own right. Maya’s instrument moans, sighs and whispers, in contrast to Buck’s more and more explosive percussives, making “Mercury”‘s epic unfolding a study in long-range dynamic and sonic contrast even as it changes dramatically from moment to moment. Despite references to established modes of expression, there’s nothing sterile about this venture into duo improv.

Nicola Cipani’s exploration of broken-down New York pianos, The Ill-Tempered Piano, results in a fascinating collection of improvisations where necessity is truly the mother of invention. The impression, from a track such as “Scemophonia,” is that each piano is capable of little else and the disc’s success is a credit to Cipani’s creativity. Transgeographical gestalts are sometimes invoked purely as a symptom of a piano’s condition, as on the microtonally mesmerizing “Outsourced Music”. No matter how ‘out’ the tunings, many rhythmic constructions are fairly simple, evoking swing or funk.

The same can be said of Denman Maroney’s quintet session Udentity, yet the references don’t stop there. Is that “Blue Train” audible in the second track? Given the veteran status of all those involved—Ned Rothenberg (alto sax, clarinet and bass clarinet), Dave Ballou (trumpet), Reuben Radding (bass) and Michael Sarin (drums)—it wouldn’t be surprising. Be that as it may, Maroney’s trademark hyperpiano is complemented by the pointilistic jabs, thrusts and sinews of the other musicians, some old-fashioned keyboard work dominating the latter half of this typically diverse and endlessly fascinating album.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=32731

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

cf-137Denman Maroney – Udentity (CF 137)
Denman Maroney, the sole practitioner of “hyperpiano,” has a singular technique that is a natural extension of the pioneering efforts of such visionary composers as John Cage, Henry Cowell and George Crumb. Expanding on the well-established practice of augmenting the interior strings of the piano with found objects, Maroney bows, plucks and scrapes the strings with brass bowls, copper bars, plastic cases, rubber blocks and other objects with one hand, while playing the keys with his free hand. Transforming the concept of prepared piano into an interactive activity, he yields an infinite range of harmonic overtones, exotic tone clusters and indefinite pitches.

Mirroring his advanced approach towards improvisation, Maroney uses an array of complex structural devices to build his intricate compositions, such as multiple syncopated rhythms, hocketing melodies and preset undertone series. In spite of the preponderance of such esoteric devices, Maroney’s writing exudes a subtle accessibility, employing catchy melodic fragments that occasionally hark back to the early jazz age.

Embellishing these labyrinthine pieces is a veteran quintet, all members of Maroney’s previous ensembles. Fluxations (New World, 2003) featured multi-instrumentalist Ned Rothenberg and trumpeter Dave Ballou, while Rothenberg, bassist Reuben Radding and drummer Michael Sarin form the core of Maroney’s recent quartet effort Gaga (NuScope, 2008).

Consisting of seven distinct movements, each section of Udentity highlights a different aspect of Maroney’s multifaceted capabilities. The punchy opener entwines a cantilevered series of staccato refrains over a percolating funk vamp while the following piece unfolds with an effervescent melody bolstered by timeless unison harmonies.

Invoking past traditions, Ballou unleashes pungent smears from his plunger-muted trumpet across the pensive “Udentity V,” as Rothenberg’s clarion clarinet cadences careen through the abstruse avenues of “Udentity III.” All the while, Radding and Sarin navigate Maroney’s contrapuntal meters and interlocking rhythms with deliberate pacing and spontaneous invention.

Despite the quintet’s sterling contributions, it’s Maroney’s efforts that are the most striking, with excursions that often border on the surreal—such as the pirouetting vortex of scintillating metallic glissandos and oscillating harmonics that conclude “Udentity II.” His oblique phrasing on “Udentity V” is complemented by the rhythm section’s languorous groove, like bluesy Dixieland refracted through a cubist lens. The dynamic vacillations of “Udentity III” encompass a wealth of moods, alternating between austere pointillism and kaleidoscopic chromaticism.

Another exceptional release in a growing discography, Udentity is a stirring example of the adventurous yet accessible possibilities of jazz in the new millennium.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=32164

Free Jazz review by Stef

cf-137Denman Maroney Quintet – Udentity (CF 137)
****½
Pianist Denman Maroney is a restless spirit, seeking new ways to express himself, joining careful structural compositional elements with free form, and the result is utterly perplexing and warm. I have listened more than a dozen times to this album in the past days and it is extremely difficult get familiar with it. Each time I listen to this record, it sounds different. It is hard to identify themes, or even structures in it, but the music is carefully crafted nevertheless : the rhythms and tempos are different for the various instruments in the quintet, and so is the harmonic development. It is at times puzzling for the listener: once you focus on one thing, the other parts seem to escape attention, and vice versa. A kind of musical “trompe l’oeil” with ever ongoing shifts and differing perspectives. Musical time becomes a relative thing. On top of that, Maroney uses his hyperpiano extensions: anything that is handy to give his strings a different sound color will do: slides and bows of metal, rubber, plastic, brass bowls, CD jewel cases, tape cassette boxes, you name it. But the brilliant thing about Maroney’s approach is that his music sounds great. In contrast to many experimenters, the music still prevails here, and how. With a band consisting of Ned Rothenberg on clarinet and sax, Dave Ballou on trumpet, Reuben Radding on bass and Michael Sarin on drums, what more do you want? And I think you would need such technically gifted musicians to bring Maroney’s musical concept to a good end, and adding some. It must have required great efforts of concentration for them, yet the quality of the improvisations is such that all five musicians dance their way through even the most difficult parts. And despite all the complexity, the album is great fun. It is serious at times, but Maroney does not take himself too seriously. And because of the different tempi, it funks too at times. Music for the mind, heart and body. And like any good music, its quality increases with each listen. More joy to come.
http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.com/