Jazz Sensibilities

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Rik Wright's Fundamental Forces | Subtle Energy

by Raul da Gama

Subtle Energy
Rik Wright’s Fundamental Forces
Hipsync Records (2016) 

In the fast-flowing torrents of contemporary music, it isn’t often that a musician – especially a guitarist – is brawny enough to stop and re-examine something that has already been successfully done by him or herself once already. Somehow, Rik Wright always seems up for a challenge. In every one of his past recordings he seems to jump at the idea of ‘zigging’ when everyone else suggests that he ‘zag’. This often means that Mr Wright is even up for doing something that does not suggest itself naturally to him. Clearly this is the intent of his performance on Subtle Energy, a record on which he recasts music from three earlier albums, this time around transcribing the music for clarinet and bass clarinet instead of the regular woodwinds of their incarnations. 

Pat Metheny once tore through his musical experiments on an album that envisaged a scenario where the whole of his sound-world was turned upside down. The album in question was his 1994 Geffen production Zero Tolerance for Silence. Distortion and musical mayhem was the name of the game there. While Rik Wright’s Subtle Energy does not veer that far into the aural universe it certainly veers far left of where his compunctions lie. Here, Mr. Wright’s tempi do not broach Pat Metheny’s zany extremes, but some of the things that Rik Wright does on this 2016 album are abjectly unorthodox. Anyone expecting a mellifluous outpouring of melody will be hugely surprised by Mr. Wright’s diving headlong into an angular sonic refraction of sound between the woody timbres of the clarinet and – on “Nonchalant” – the bass clarinet and the reverberating echo of eerily announced chords on his guitar. 

The dynamism of “Yearning” soars above the proverbial footlights in appropriately operatic fashion, even though the slow unwinding of the lyrical calm of the piece thins when the bass clarinet falls silent. However, Rik Wright is quick to pick up the slack and occupy more of the sonic space albeit without overcrowding it. The guitarist’s dry-point traversal of the music that follows underlines the intrinsic humor of piece in a way that might give guitar purists pause yet might also elicit a knowing wink from the composer. Rik Wright’s spacy and astute timing, and sensitive harmonic pointing enliven the rest of the piece, especially with the return of the clarinet to the proceedings. However, it’s only for a short while before the guitarist takes flight again.

There is further proof that Rik Wright can play simply and directly when he chooses to can be found on his intuitive dynamic scaling of “Patience,” where he brings out the main theme’s music-box sensibility to otherworldly effect. In the cantering rhythm of the piece that never falters despite its precariously slow tempo, Rik Wright’s overall presentation of this music proves equally provocative. He seems to order each piece not only according to time, but also to key signature. Moreover, the invention of fanciful song titles does much to also steer the music into the realm of enigmatic prose. Check out this release if you want guitar music with a twist.     
Tracks: Butterfly Effect; Subtle Energy; Yearning; Nonchalant; Patience.

Personnel: Rik Wright: guitar; James DeJoie: clarinet and bass clarinet; Geoff Harper: acoustic and electric bass; Greg Campbell: drums.

Christer Fredriksen | Vit

by Stamish Malcuss

Christer Fredriksen
Losen Record (2017)

Norwegian guitarist Christer Fredriksen’s new album Vit finds him creating a continued unique sound is his next-in-line of an ever-growing discography.  This time his new offering Vit explores soundscapes in a single take, utilizing a loop pedal and three guitar amps (along with guest performers on two tracks). It's his most spontaneous record to date, with only a tad of jazz in the mixture – well to be honest it’s about a tad of many genres in the mixture.

Loops are being used often in the jazz genre today, but what is refreshing about Fredriksen’s approach is his loops typically are not presented in a repetitive way.  An example is the opener "Preludium" loops are used to create a spacious, reverberant quality, which Fredriksen then plays over melodically.

"The Day I Lived" broods a spiraling overdriven guitar melody suggestive of another great Norwegian guitar pioneer, ECM stalwart Terje Rypdal. The ringing guitar sound of "Five Drops of Love" leads into "Go With the Grain," the heaviest track in the set.  This is where guests artists percussionist Jan Erik Pettersen, as well as keyboards by Kenneth Silden (who also contributes to "Flow") add to the overall density of the sound with great result. "Flow" offers a folksy lyricism almost an ala Pat Metheny vibe, while "I Did Nothing" is a more avant garde wall of clamor, with short repeating backwards loops and boisterous guitar noises a plenty. "Raindancer" harkens another guitar great Bill Frisell and Dave King, a more Americana sound is at hand.

Vit may mark Fredriksen's debut as a crack loop improviser, though not a new idea – in the hands of Frederiksen, it certainly bears its own originality. 

Track Listing: Preludium; The Day I Lived; Five Drops of Love; Go With the Grain; Underwater Birth; Flow; I Did Nothing; Raindancer; Meditation for Tina. 

Personnel: Christer Fredriksen: guitar; Kenneth Silden: keyboards (tracks 4 & 6); Jan Erik Pettersen: percussion samples (track 4).