CD THIRD EYE ORCHESTRA
Innova 225, recorded 2006 at Roulette, New York, released 2008 on Innova, the label of the American Composers Forum. Total Time: 79:34 Minutes. With Mari Kimura (vio), Mark Feldman (vio), Stephanie Griffin (vla), Tomas Ulrich (cel), Briggan Kraus (as, bari), Marty Ehrlich (bcl, fl), Robert Dick (fl, cbfl), Detlef Landeck (tb), Dafna Naphtali (voice, live sound processing), Ursel Schlicht (p/kb), Deman Maroney (p/kb), Stomu Takeishi (b), Satoshi Takeishi (perc), Hans Tammen – concept, realtime arrangement. Cover image by Peter Mautsch.
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Liner Notes by Howard Mandel
Composer-conductor-endangered guitarist Hans Tammen is fascinated with creative spontaneity, which is not to say improvisation, if “improvisation” suggests a lack of planning, disregard for expectations and acceptance of casual results. Everything about Third Eye Orchestra, in which Tammen directs 13 of the most virtuosic instrumentalists to ever elude labels or boundaries, indicates mastery and control.
Yet Third Eye Orchestra’s musicians are called upon to assert and enjoy — for their composer-conductor, audience and not least of all themselves — enormous freedoms in their contributions to the ultimate shape of multiple movements adding up to a heroic chamber symphony (or two).Given the multiple results which issue from a single “composition” conducted (and so, created) twice through by Tammen in successive sittings of his ensemble, this album’s two versions, “Antecedent” and “Consequent” (each broken into six titled parts, according to Tammen by coincidence but for convenience) demonstrate how compositional and interpretive processes can work together to everyone’s benefit. Neither composers nor improvisers subjugate themselves under such a plan. And the music that emerges can boast both enough rigor of form and flights of fancy to satisfy all involved.
This was, no doubt, Tammen’s plan from the point of his inspiration by Earle Brown’s “Available Forms” and his determination to assemble an all-star ensemble for an evening-length concert. Third Eye Orchestra documents an extraordinary gathering in December 2006 of New York “downtown” players at Roulette, the most venerable yet diversely lively of all independent downtown performance spaces to feature new and experimental music, as it’s done since 1978.Glancing at the convened personnel, one is hard-pressed to find a player who has not presented music of their own design at Roulette, and several of the soloists (they are all soloists) are acclaimed as not just virtuosi but innovators on their instruments. As spontaneous composers-improvisers-call-them-what-you-will, these musicians do not stop even at devising new techniques; their aim is to use those techniques for purposes of self-expression. Considering the sensitivity and sophistication of their accomplishments across all these dimensions, it would be wasteful folly for a composer to dictate notes to them. But considering the wealth of ideas the collective can summon instantaneously, preconceived plot and guidance through it seem desirable, if not essential.
Though Tammen draws from a single repertoire of some 150 pre- conceived musical units for both performances of Third Eye Orchestra here, he never intended to cast the two performances in a single mold. “Opening” (set 1, part 1) starts with Mari Kimura’s exquisite violin exposition backed by low pitch alternations and a second intersecting part for a different subgroup of instruments, and makes the concert instantly welcoming by posing it as calm, perhaps meditative, clear and enveloping, moving gradually from near-unison towards polyphonic, polytimbral, polyrhythmic and polymetric complexities.
The mood changes radically as alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss asserts a rough-edged leading voice in “Death Clock,” and the brothers Stomu and Satoshi Takeishi (bass and percussion, respectively), along with pianist Ursel Schlicht, become ever more insistent, but the strings that follow them refer to the parts established in “Opening,” even as flutist Robert Dick takes off on a tangent of his own. The live sound processing Dafna Naphtali conjures in “Mdina Experience” even as she’s singing wordless harmony, triggers an episode that floats over Marty Ehrlich’s bass clarinet and rhythmic outbursts, leading to Detlef Landeck’s heroic trombone feature (he flew to New York from Germany, just for this concert), out of which comes a flute-contrabass flute (Ehrlich and Dick) duet that’s almost pastoral in nature, joined by Stephanie Griffin on viola, then Tomas Ulrich on cello. Mark Feldman’s tender violin, leaping to a penetrating high note over pianists Schlicht and Denman Maroney’s contemplative chords in “Verrano,” reset the overall mood. “Triadic Closure” commences with high-string tension, gains lowest register rumbles and Naphtali’s voice and processor-sweeps, horn riffs, off-kilter drum punches, Schlicht’s keyboard-spanning touches, and Krauss’s baritone sax squall to a pin-point end.
Suffice it to say Tammen’s second set has none of the first’s passages; “Consequents'” six parts do not even match the lengths of “Antecedent’s.” The moment was different, for players and audience alike certainly as cast to a degree by the effect of the first set’s parts. So how could the musicians, or the conductor/ composer, settle for the same?
It is difficult, nay impossible, to assert that either performance is “better” than the other, especially when the digital format of this album allows a listener to reshuffle the sequence of parts to his or her own heart’s content. There are many strikingly beautiful moments — for instance, the tutti comprising much of “Subtle Inconsistencies” — due to the combined talents of Tammen and his musicians; they would surely be less “beautiful,” cogent or coherent without either composer-conductor or this particularly alert and quickly responsive musical cohort. The combination of the two arrives at something inseparable, a sonic event that wraps impulse around forethought in a way that each survives and thrives. Take the single point of view of a composer-conductor, add in the multiple perspectives of a baker’s dozen top-flight instrumental improvisers, and come up with sound that’s broad and penetrating, all encompassing yet selective, too. Every listener may decide, individually, whether this is composition or improvisation, or a third thing that springs from the intermingling of those two, bearing forth Third Eye Orchestra. — Howard Mandel
Howard Mandel, contributor to Down Beat, SignalToNoise, The Wire and National Public Radio, is author as well of Miles Ornette Cecil — Jazz Beyond Jazz (Routledge, 2008).
Jacob Baekgaard (AllAboutJazz)
In jazz circles, New York is known for cultivating the sounds of the cutting edge; club Roulette has shown a particular seismographic ability to know what’s happening at the fringes of jazz. If anything, the release of Hans Tammen Third Eye Orchestra underlines this with striking clarity.
An innovative avant-garde guitar guru, Hans Tammen is mostly known for his elusive technique of endangered guitar, but he’s also the visionary behind the interesting contemporary avant-garde ensemble, The Third Eye Orchestra. Hans Tammen Third Eye Orchestra presents a live concert recorded at the Roulette. The pure thrill of exploring a world of sound really shines through on this release, which is nothing short of breathtaking.
The idea behind The Third Eye Orchestra is to gather some of the most exciting musicians on the improvising scene and let them perform music of instant composition under Tamman’s guidance. The result is an otherworldly music that feels both thoroughly composed and purely improvised. Formally, the album is split into two sections: “Antecedent” and “Consequent.” Each section is divided into six parts and every part brings forth different solo voices. “Part V – Verrano,” for example, features Mark Feldman’s awe-inspiring violin, who lets the notes soar like birds above the ground, spreading the light against the night sky of Denman Maroney’s muffled, repeated keyboard figures.The conclusion to “Antecedent” is just as impressive, with vocalist Dafna Naphtali chanting over washes of violin sounds and gentle noise. This is the language of poetic creation, with words compressed to pure sound: humming, scatting and screaming. “Consequent” starts with Briggan Krauss’ honking baritone sax and settles into an abstract groove, only to evolve into a beautiful dialogue between Maroney and violist Stephanie Griffin.The orchestra includes a wealth of musical voices, but what’s most amazing is how the individuals intuitively find their places in the sheets of sound, alternating between intimate, whispering confessions and cacophonic chaos. Overall, the mood of the album is tranquil, with rich textures and explorations of sound, rhythm and melody.
Ideally, music should appeal to all senses but it is as if this music actually instills a sixth sense or, perhaps, a third eye. What is cultivated then, is a new way of listening, which is what the historical avant-garde was always about—a new way of perceiving the world. Hans Tammen Third Eye Orchestra is a complete work of art that has the ability to change the world: a masterpiece of musical evocation. Original Link
Marc Medwin (AllAboutJazz)
This is a stunning live recording from one of improvised music’s most fascinating proponents. Hans Tammen has gathered a dream team of 13 improvising musicians, but that’s hardly the totality of this project, which combines composed material with extemporization to create a score whose modus operandi is constant change on every level. This is one of those discs that verbiage won’t encapsulate. The music on offer here is not to be compartmentalized, though it exists in discrete but connected sections. These large-scale vignettes might morph and grow with slow intensity or they might groove hard, but they share the performers’ penchant for timbral exploration. Check out the engagingly free inter-registral solo that opens the disc, courtesy of the wonderful violinist Mari Kimura. Below and around it, long-toned exhalations bloom and hang suspended, pause, then recur. They prefigure the final section of “Antecedent,” with its long looming tones shot through with tasteful signal processing, bringing a perfect sense of closure to the disc’s first half.Journalist Howard Mandel’s liners state that “Consequent” is an alternate version of “Antecedent”‘s material. So different is the execution that resemblances become less important than what occurs in each moment. As its second part, “Subtle Inconsistencies,” unfolds, we can revel in the unique pianism of Denman Maroney as it dissolves effortlessly into Stephanie Griffin’s viola lead.The production is as good as the music is diverse. Each musician’s identity is readily apparent while a unity is maintained. The Roulette audience is remarkably restrained and it is hard to believe this is a live recording without the accompanying documentation. Mandel’s notes are to the point; he resists hyperbole, focusing instead on simple elucidation of Tammen’s concepts and their genesis.This is an excellent disc from a musical maverick whose approach keeps evolving. Not easy listening by any means, it will please those with a taste for long-form adventure. Original Link
Ken Waxman (JazzWord.com)
Expanding his electro-acoustic expertise to a creation for large ensemble, on this CD German-born, New York-based endangered guitarist Han Tammen presents two mesmerizing suites from his 13-piece Third Eye Orchestra.Apparently unfazed by the superstition about 13, Tammen doesn’t perform, but instead conducts and arranges in real time. Likewise ignoring the superstitious angle, some of Manhattan’s most accomplished and innovative musicians – and one ringer – handle with aplomb Tammen’s creation which calls for equal facility with improvisation and notated music, acoustic instrumental techniques and familiarity with electronic excursions. Although billed as two, six-part versions of the same piece – “Antecedent” and “Consequence” – it’s a tribute to all concerned that neither version mirrors the other. While the separately titled tracks exhibit certain homogeneity, soloists never eschew individuality even while blending with the others in section work or contrasting passages.
The ringer here is trombonist Detlef Landeck, a musical associate of Tammen’s from the Fatherland. Having flown from Germany especially for the concert, his contributions are particularly expressive. On “Antecedent: Part III: Mdina Experience” for instance, the measured dual keyboard pulsations and backbeat percussion cushion a contrapuntal duet between Stomu Takeishi’s thumb-popping electric bass and Landeck’s wide-ranging brays and blurts that finally swell to full-fledged gutbucket slurs. Mixing Trad Jazz-style wah-wahs and New music-like staccato tonguing on “Consequent: Part I: Istres Control”, Landeck matches Briggan Krauss’ baritone saxophone growls which in themselves proceed chromatically with the single-mindedness and strength of a boar searching for truffles. Then as part of Consequent’s finale, the last measures of pitch-sliding strings plus percussionist Satoshi Takeishi’s dense backbeat are superseded by dexterous tongue slaps and unaltered air forced through Landeck’s s horn’s body tube, adumbrating the concluding silence.Overall nearly every sonic incursion corresponds with Tammen’s game plan, and eventually becomes interlocking parts of the whole. Hear Krauss’ work for other instances. Not just a low-pitched sax specialist, on alto saxophone he contributes jagged glissandi that at times balance the subtle murmuring from Dafna Naphtali’s sound-processed voice and elsewhere provide altissimo comments on metronomic piano chording. Meanwhile, Robert Dick’s sharp flute shrills moderate Krauss’ low-pitched sax lines at points and in another instance operate alongside spiccato slides from the string quartet.Among the other textures in use by members of the lucky 13 are mercurial pitch-sliding and sharp, dissonant string slices from cellist Tomas Ulrich; zither-like twanging and rebounding from Denman Maroney’s prepared piano; plus Ursel Schlicht double-timed syncopation that expands from pecking, clipping and popping whether she plays acoustic piano or electric keyboard.
Not that some instruments’ traditional tones are neglected either. “Antecedent: Part V: Verrano” for example, begins with a violin solo from Mark Feldman that is almost classically pure in execution. As Maroney’s keyboard contributes further flowing patterns, the result resembles a chamber recital – especially when the other strings join with unison romantic glissandi.Taken as a whole, both versions of the composition abound with similar connections and contrasts. “Consequent: Part IV: Intentionally Left Blank” for one, layers abrasive and shuddering multi-stops from the strings alongside vamping horn timbres and burbling, motor-driven electronic whizzing, held together by a solid bass line. But to isolate the praiseworthy skill that goes into the band members creating yet another slithering keyboard run or a bit of flying spiccato from a fiddler would be pointless.
More generic to the session is the realization that as a conductor, arranger and conceptualizer, Tammen now appears to have equaled his skill as an instrumentalist. One would hope that more large-scale works are planned for the future. Original Link