Don Byron / Aruán Ortiz — Random Dances and (A)Tonalities
(Intakt CD 309, 2018, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-01-12
Don Byron has been on my radar for quite a few years now, since I picked up his Romance with the Unseen nearly 20 years ago (mainly from seeing the names of Jack DeJohnette and Bill Frisell on the cover). Random Dances and (A)Tonalities pairs Byron up with Cuban pianist Aruán Ortiz, who was unfamiliar to me before. In spite of the album’s title, none of the music sounds especially random or atonal, and in fact is often quite pleasant, though it is certainly tilted towards the avant-garde. Each of the two contributes three compositions, with one of Byron’s being an arrangement of a Bach partita; there is a joint composition; and they tackle pieces by Duke Ellington, Frederico Mompou, and Geri Allen. Byron mostly sticks to clarinet, with saxophone on a few tracks. For the most part, the music doesn’t fit into standard jazz idioms, even on the Ellington and Allen pieces, though it would probably be called jazz by default. “Black and Tan Fantasy” is given a reading that has blues voicings in the chords but has a rhythmic feel a bit like a tango; Byron’s arrangement of a Bach violin partita is played solo on clarinet with only moderate non-baroque inflection. Ortiz is fluid and lush in his chord voicings, making good use of the space afforded by not having a bass in the mix. There are passages of dense chords with a robust low end and times where delicate fluttering melodies float above ambiguous tonality. This is not typical jazz, or typical anything else, but two creative musicians exploring what they can do together.
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more