Album Notes and Reviews
Liner notes to First Album by Gori Tzadek
The French origin of the word debut comes from an older word meaning “to play first” and so it is with this debut album by the Mystic Out-Bop Review. First and foremost is the playing of the music, any words such as mine, or any other critic, will ipso facto be secondary statements. With this new album by this new-to-the-scene trio we are blessed with a sharp clear breath of February air into what has become the moist lungy softness of musical complacency. Play rules the day in this improvisational mode of musical composition. The three members of the Mystic Out-Bop Review energetically engage their fluid conversation while developing their unique individual sounds.The sensitive chording and sometimes obovoid arpeggiations of Kit Demos on the upright bass masks the complicated inner working of his cerebral note selection. The rhythmic interplay of Chico Valentine’s drumming creates his own bedrock architecture that nonetheless scales in to the clouds like a festive bird. All the while the self-syncopated saxophone of Alonzo Holliday ekes out disquieting sonorities. Over the recent years, the voicings and tonal approaches of these individuals have evolved and, as they must, continue to evolve. All the solo dynamics come together, as in the words of the name of the group: Mystic Out-Bop Review. Mystic refers to the intuitive connection between these three musicians and their responses to each other. The spirit this conjures up is truly work akin to the sage mystics of yore. Out-Bop refers to the rather “far out” nature of the music as compared to most mainstream tastes and the be-bop roots of their instrumentation. The group is also a review in the way it looks on the past with both respect and irreverence. The opening fifty minute piece, Obliterated Destiny (an indiscrete suite), is a tight grouping of sweeping gestures, that have the ability to toss the listener out of windows many floors up. (Perhaps this Czech saying looses something in the translation.) But, even so, the parts are indeed greater than the whole. Conundrum a 47 bar blues number most likely has nothing structurally to do with the blues, but its frenetic energy out paces even the simplest concept of “that down home feeling” You’ll notice in this number that, true to the blues, Holliday pounds his fifths like they were water. With the piece Time Spirit the subtle “faux notes” of Demos and Holliday are stirred into a frothy fevered intensity that lets up only when Valentine shakes thing up by laying down a “groove.” The recording session from which this disk you now hold, sprang forth was “as impromptu as you could imagine” notes Joe Rector, the resident recording technician. “I thought they were still setting up when [Chico]Valentine indicated to me that the reels should be rolling.” Throughout the long historical development and interpretation of jazz improvisation, not all musicians, experimenting musicians or listeners are inclined to merely make abstract references to structure and theory without leaning back on a traditional system in some way. One may listen for these references in recordings such as this and decide for him or herself how they got there. This is music that is about experiencing the inner workings of the human psyche and the outer worlds of the universe. The listener of this album will be taken to places far beyond the natural boundaries of… most everything. The groups previous album In between here and (t)here is yet to be released
Review of 1st album
Casco Bay Weekly April 4, 2001
stop the bop Subversives on CD
To: All agents From: Minister of Culture
Re: “Mystic Out-Bop Review”
First, let me congratulate you on the excellent job you’ve done in eliminating agitating influences in the arts. Ken Burns’ recent public television series effectively reduced the most dangerous form of music to pabulum by convincing the populace that Wynton Marsalis has something to do with jazz (in much the same way Burns earlier associated Doris Kearns Goodwin with, of all things, baseball). It was a triumph for those of us charged with maintaining social order. Unfortunately, this victory has been followed by a serious security breach. A limited number of CDs by musical terrorists known as the “Mystic Out-Bop Review,” believed to be from the vicinity of Portland, Maine, have somehow been circulating in underground circles. This album is extremely dangerous and should be approached with utmost caution. In tests conducted at the Manilow Center for Moderation in Music, exposure to this CD caused Burns’ beard to fall out and Marsalis to fold himself into a fetal position and implode. The album begins with “Obliterated Destinies (an indiscrete suite).” Under no circumstances should you listen to any of this 50-minute work, during which the Review undermines the better part of a century of music, displaying a remarkable insolence by incorporating elements of everything from Eastern European classical music to pure noise in the piece. By comparison, the remaining three cuts (“Mumbelty Peg,” “Conundrum” and “Time Spirit”) might almost seem socially acceptable, were it not for their unsettling tendency to unravel musical cliches and reassemble them in surprisingly engaging — and utterly unacceptable — ways. Fortunately, we believe we have identified the criminals behind this work. “Alonzo Holliday,” who plays tenor and alto sax in the forbidden tradition of Coltrane, is none other than Frank Turek of the Clown School Dropouts and Shutdown 66. “Chico Valentine,” a drummer who may be guilty of absorbing the unsettling influences of Max Roach and Elvin Jones, bears a remarkable resemblance to Frank SanFilippo of Black Tara and Chiasso. And “Kit Demos” is actually Chrys Demos, a known associate of Chiasso and Opa Opa, and a person believed to be armed with acoustic and electric basses capable of evoking the accursed Mingus legacy. In short, this is jazz for those weary of the tiresome, structured exercises that pass for present-day bop. As such, it cannot be permitted. You are ordered to visit selected music stores and Mystic Out-Bop shows and confiscate all copies immediately.
Liner Notes to Lagrangian Points by Gori Tzadek
Once again, and once warmed up, Holliday, Demos, and Valentine dash to transfer energy to points on the sonic canvas. The points converge and diverge as the canvas fills, modeling and mocking the natural motions in the universe at will. Their contributions are always in reflection, in counterpoint, and in symbiosis with each other. They move independently while tugging at each other from directions of debatable relation. Such is the state of affairs for “Lagrangian Points”. In addition to what is placed on the canvas, they all take great care in the development of the spaces or the sense of space. These spaces can span different levels of significance or “spatial characteristics”, if you will. In one respect, these levels are analogous to the range denoted in standard musical nomenclature as between pp (very soft) and ff (very loud) although, describing of a soft or loud silence can be difficult. The spaces they create also employ some elements of the environment sometimes thought to be the quintessence of space: in one instance Alonzo creates the audible sound of wind through the tenor while Kit and Chico contemplate the sonic environment both actively and passively. Still, the fundamental interpretation of space makes swooping dives, defying notion as time separates harmonious or melodic passages. These separations are amalgamated with aggressive interplay or sometimes “dead” silence (see the beginning of Mo’ Bow). The natural reverberation of Aria Arts Studio’s large, all old-wood barn embellishes the physical separation between players and sets the interplay against a subtle contextual sheen.
There have been various attempts at reinventing the concept of “harmony” which often goes hand-in-glove with new variations in musical nomenclature. Many are more or less static replacements for already static systems of thought. In irreverent contrast to this approach, Holliday, Valentine, and Demos set the reinvention process in motion like a mobile. To date, audiences have appreciated the music and enjoyed witnessing the on-the-spot mode of musical composition by the ensemble. In Mo’ Bow, for instance, Chico has described the musical scenario as a layering of sequential tonal intervals played by Demos and Holliday. The percussive intensity provides a night shade-like backdrop powerful enough to overcome the intuitive harmonic definition of the intervals themselves. Thus Chico asks for Mo’ Bow.
“It’s a funny thing,” quips Joe Rector, the studio engineer who has been assigned to work with Mystic Out-Bop Review, “that when I first heard these fellows play I would get the image in my head of the mess my dog would make when we kept him in the animal crate over night for house training” In the past he has had a difficult yet rewarding time with the trio. Rector, with his money gig recording radio commercial jingles, was at first thrown by the band’s enthusiasm with him, “My first impression of them as uptight artistes with an agenda was completely erased.” Rector went on to say that he felt that the group’s receptive nature to his ideas was at last a chance now [sic] to validate his own skills and artistry.
As the producer’s aesthetic ideals generally preside over those of the recording engineer’s, Rector has considered himself no more than his producer’s lackey. Rector felt that the Mystic Out-Bop Review sessions could provide him with the opportunity to validate his concept of engineer qua producer: “It was a chance to upset the typical hierarchy, uhm… with the band as open eared co-producer, naturally.”
Upon listening to this session, Rector’s touch is at once noticeable, not in what you hear but more in what you don’t hear. Rector is minimalist at heart. The “old-school, unprocessed sound” is what he’s after, for example, Joe has been known to refer to simple bass and treble tone controls as “infernal equalizers” (an attitude most likely developed during his biology thesis work in recording rodent mating calls). Consequently, Rector refuses to edit, process, equalize or modify his recordings in any way.
It is remarkable how Rector’s purity mirrors Mystic Out-Bop Review’s contemplative soul searching. Their respective world views may be worlds apart, but in spirit they are truly akin.
Lagrangian Points, as the titles implies, is a bunch of weighty forces pulling at each other, for it is only through this tension that perfect equilibrium is obtained.
Gori Tzadek – Prague New Music Journal
Lagrangian Points review by Al Diamon
CASCO BAY WEEKLY January 17.2002
Out-Bop is back Mystic Out-Bop Review has returned from deep space (or, possibly, Prague) with a new CD of free jazz called “Lagrangian Points,” apparently named after Count Joseph Louis Lagrange, a French mathematician and astronomer, who in the mid-18th century worked out some equations that explain why the moon orbits the Earth instead of floating off into space or crashing down on top of us. The wonderful thing about that is, you don’t have to understand Lagrange’s calculations (published in his masterpiece, “Mecanique analytique,” in case you want to look ’em up) to appreciate the results. It’s sufficient that the moon stays more or less where it is. In much the same way, you don’t have to comprehend exactly what the Out-Boppers are up to in order to enjoy the end product. Unlike all too much of the free-jazz movement — the stuff that sounds as if somebody dropped a large lunar object on an industrial-pipe factory– this Portland-based trio of sax, drums and bass has mastered the ability to make music that’s both unsettling and satisfying. The sounds on its second album refuse to fade into the background, but neither do they evoke comparisons with somebody throttling a large rodent. As Lagrange, himself, put it in his famous theorem: “The order of each subgroup of a finite group is a factor of the order of the group.” Which, translated from the French, means these cats can knock craters in your skull. If anything, the new CD is more immediately accessible than last year’s self-titled debut, even though the two discs were recorded only about seven months apart. There’s nothing here as overwhelming as the first album’s “Obliterated Destinies (an indiscrete suite),” a 50-minute tour-de-force. This time, most of the tracks (all of them under 12 minutes in length) begin with a firm grounding in bop tradition, before distorting that tradition in original and unexpected ways. But comparisons between the two albums may be meaningless. As Lagrange once wrote, “[F]or though we can always well conceive the ratios of two quantities, as long as they remain finite, that ratio offers to the mind no clear and precise idea, as soon as its terms both become nothing at the same time.” For a mathematician, the guy had chops.
Review of Knom by Alonzo Holliday in Cadence Jazz
ALONZO HOLLIDAY, KNOM, ARIA ARTS106.
Lucretius Pencil Wheel / Little Knerink / Bad Wind Luke / You, Maine / Poetry Ship.
Holliday, ts. 9/26/03, Parsonsfield, ME.
Holliday goes the solo tenor saxophone route on KNOM. Sub-titled Anagrammatic Interpretations on Thelonious Sphere Monk, the recording is a freeform event taking extreme interpretive license with Monk’s music. Just as the title Knom is an anagram of Monk’s name, the music takes on the same disguised, deeply hidden, and personal perceptions of Holliday’s Monk. Holliday presents five anagrammatic titles as liberal interpretations of tunes played by Monk’s quartet with John Coltrane at the Five Spot in 1958 (can you decode them?). He exudes long, linear lines of freely spun improvisations. His tenor voice is full and robust with an extended range; the high and low registers are regularly used as accentors and punctuation marks to his meaty mid-range probing. Holliday’s concepts are knotted, interwoven exercises where he sinks deeply into the realm of self-expression. Monk apparently is rattling around in his brain, but what comes out of his horn is original, demanding material taking on more of the persona of Holliday than Monk. However, if one concentrates intently on what Holliday is saying, glimpses of the inspiration will be fleetingly recognized, such as “I Mean You” buried within “You, Maine.” The references are ephemeral images on the brain, followed immediately by Holliday taking control of the direction and making one wonder if the subtleties really occurred or were imagined. That is the best type of anagram, one that is not overt or obvious. Each selection suggests this phenomenon, where the ghost of the master becomes an illusionary figure, only to be dismissed as a mirage by Holliday’s exploratory methods. Although the title’s anagram for Monk does not have the same double-edged meaning as the brilliant one concocted by Gerry Mulligan for the wizard Gil Evans (Svengali), Holliday’s music is full of significance and offers an ingenious glimpse at where a creative musical mind can wander.