Friday, March 22, 2013

A trifecta of goodness from Prefecture

Prefecture Records is the Seattle-based label run by drummer Paul Kikuchi and pianist Tiffany Lin. Their interests encompass jazz, contemporary classical, and experimental musics, all of which are represented in their latest release.

Reedman Jason Mears plays with Kikuchi in the Empty Cage Quartet. On Book of Changes: Part I, Mears leads his Electric Quintet in a program of compositions based on a notation system -- free of bar lines and time signatures -- that he learned from trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. As the musicians discover in the moment how to integrate their parts, an engaging conversation ensues. The results are '70s Milesian in a manner reminiscent of Smith's Golden Quartet, with important contributions from Angela Sanchez's searching Wurlitzer electric piano and Kevin Farrell's stabbing electric bass. Guitarist Jonathan Goldberger sounds like he's listened to Destroy All-era Nels Cline. His strongest statements appear on the lengthy closer "Receptive," on which Sanchez fairly swarms all over her keys. "The Creative" invites comparisons to Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch, with the leader playfully pointillistic on alto and clarinet, and drummer Harris Eisenstadt echoing Tony Williams' sweet thunder. 

The digital-only Here Now by the quartet Crosstalk (which includes Lin on piano) showcases the chamber jazz side of the label. The instrumentation -- clarinet, piano, bass, and drums -- recalls in equal measure the sound of Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" and the kind of pastoral rumination for which ECM Records was known in the '70s. The recordings, from a live performance and a radio broadcast, capture the instruments in intimate detail; you can hear the sound of Kikuchi's brushes like baby's breath on cymbals. Lin and clarinetist-composer Jesse Canterbury are both lyrical improvisers, but not averse to occasional dissonance, while in the rhythm section, bassist Brian Cobb is an able accompanist, and Kikuchi the most sympathetic of percussionists.

The three pieces on Somewhere Beyond or Behind, the latest offering from Open Graves -- Kikuchi's collaboration with sound artist Jesse Olsen Bay -- unfold like the seasons. On "Sirocco," recorded in a disused cistern, the space gives the natural sounds of their percussion instruments preternatural depth and resonance, with haunting harmonics. On "Blues for Morton," from a 2011 California performance, tonal elements are introduced, but function more rhythmically than melodically. Back in the cistern for the title track, Kikuchi and Bay play echolalic minimalist melodies on guitar and prepared piano that reverberate in the space, a soul-soothing sound.

ADDENDUM: My bad, Paul informs me that the Crosstalk album isn't on Prefecture. But anyway...


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