The Jazzcat

Cryptonights @ the Redcat – A Ten Year Retrospective!

by on May.10, 2009, under News

Cryptogramophone is a record label that really intrigues me because everything about the label, the artists and even the audience is saturated in art in the truest form of the word. I have been hearing so much about the Cline Brothers Alex and Nels and the president of the label violinist Jeff Gauthier. I have met Jeff on other occasions and I must say he has a wonderful and peaceful disposition and the sounds that he creates with his violin are just pure sweetness!

Silence is golden and so is the peace before the first note. Cello, bass, violins, gongs and piano has to be included in the jazz stimulus package. Space is used as a vital instrument as the sixth variable in the quintet. If I was only able to hear just one note, it would come from the sweet vibrations on the strings of a cello. Maggie Parkins who I believe was sitting in as cellist delivered confident beauty no questions asked. Luckily, we are all blessed to hear a barrage of notes and Myra Melford, along with her quintet swirled the melody piece by peace spinning the music into a warm blanket of love.

If you need to bring back romance, life and a newly created energy about your soul, this is where you should have been tonight. Transitions of resonating vibrations like a Tibetan Singing Bowl, calming and healing to the spirit and the light. These are stories, sagas if you will, about deeper adventures into every dimension of time and self-exploration. It is not about the accolades but more in line with a gift: a truly generous and beautiful offering of sweet music. Bringing together worlds of sound and rhythms that spiritually and naturally give pleasure in their serenity.  Power, force and divinity layer the air enchanting and sculpting the collage of sound.

Cryptonight is celebrating a decade of music from all of the wonderful artists that have recorded under its name. Life long musical friendships and creative divinity have developed from the part of the brain that thinks and feels as each player, a leader in their own right, has come together tonight as a unit, displaying talent that shines individually and as an asset for the collaboration.

Alex Cline, the tall gentle soul of the drums addresses the audience. His new album “Continuum” has just been released and tonight many of the pieces being performed come from that disc. Myra is workin’ the piano like a piano tuner’s nemesis in the best way! Lovely expressions of chunky melodic, out rich colors of dark and bright elbowisms combined with and entire spectrum of eighty-eight tones blistering with a voice that will be heard for the content of its character. Bass and bows, cellos and violins comfort, sing and soothe.

Alex is at the center of a universe of brass, surrounding himself with many opportunities to create infinite sound right at his fingertips. Mathematically, the sound exponentials are all to the fifth power and beyond, Sound effects humans with so much emotion and of course its qualities are very powerful, so much so that some fear the power while others bask in its beauty. We all are different creatures but all it takes is a willingness to open up to possibilities, resist forming opinions and letting the honest natural rhythm of your body be the deciding force. The thirst and quench of musical cerebral nutrients is vital for the growth of spirit and mind.

Alex combines a piece from his first album, yes LP with one from his latest “Continuation” called “Steadfast” to round out set number one for the night of Crypto. The instruments were stretched to provide tones that they weren’t designed for, yet they produce the alter ego whose personality is happy to be freed from its original confines.  A search to introduce the inner spirit of sounds to its outside counterparts!

Round two! Myra is back with her band bringing clarinetist Ben Goldberg into the mix as well as Cuong Vu on trumpet and Stomu Takeishi on electric bass minus the string section. She lets us know that we will have a treat as a dancer and visual artist will join the ensemble.

Original compositions are the seed to future generations of “ears” hearing new sounds. If musicians were farmers, I’m sure they would profit more from harvesting corn than eggplant. You have to be strong willed, confident and stand behind your product that is outside the norm because without it, where would the color in life be?

Oguri, the Japanese dance master made his appearance an illusion. Towards the rear of the stage, very quietly and slowly, hiding in plane sight almost in still frames do fragments of his image superimpose on stage as a real visual. Audible pleasures now take on more sensibilities enhancing the experience with the visual of dance. Blending so well into the background like a musical art mime, his slow motion movements are like Pagliacci moving between, around and against the notes throwing off the equilibrium of balance just as if he were a sound himself.

As Myra builds blocks and clusters on the piano, Stomu drops toys on the ground and smashes up plastic cups against his strings creating some wonderfully unusual altered existences. Matt Wilson explodes with a barrage of notes and the sound of Ben’s clarinet blows and fleets as Oguri makes his way mid-stage where audible and visual paint a canvas right in front of our eyes like six brushes of virtual paint starting at different perspectives while we watch the picture unfold in the freest of fashions! In and Out occupying the same space at the same time is quite a concept! As free as it is for the musicians and dancer to express their uninhibited virtue, the audience is just as free to receive that communication and the equations may vary yet they all produce the same correct answer.

On the second day of Crypto, my true love gave to me, more music not a pear tree! The house of return was again in full effect all in joyful anticipation of similar past experiences of elation. Brother Nels is the first to enter stage left followed by Alex, Jeff, Joel Hamilton on bass and big boy David Witham, the giant of jazz piano!

The music travels taking flight straight ahead before reaching crossroads where some take the high road and some take the low all to meet back at destination resolve. David lights up the keys with dreamy prancing poignant precision laying down confident melodies. On “Friends of the Animals”, a piece on Jeff’s latest album, “House of Return, the cats take it out and rock it around a bit with Nels taking the guitar to electric galaxies and back. I had an opportunity to see Jeff on the break the previous night and there were no words, just hugs as deeds to express my gratitude for the loveliness that he constantly displays as a leader, owner, person and intricately tuned participant in the music. Cryptogramaphone is an indie label that has been around for a decade. Eric Von Essen wrote Binko’s Blues which appears on “House of Return” and I had played it earlier that day on my show at 88.1 FM KKJZ as a celebration for this weekends performances.

Nels Cline and his trio were celebrating eight years as a band together. He and brother Alex were born right here in Los Angeles somewhere near Bunker Hill so performing here tonight brings back fond memories of a neighborhood, a life and how after years and three hundred and sixty degrees, music brings them right back to inception.

Nels has five guitars, each one creating a different kind of electronic open-minded approach to the music. With the guitars, the kalimba and echo effects layering rhythmic mantric patterns of overlapping rich textures, the music ranges from sublime to planet out!  There are powerful rock dramatics that depart into an electric sphere far away from the planes of what folks traditionally know as jazz music. Twin alter ego personalities come out in the expansions of the music. The use of distortion as a viable entity in the music blasts off like exploding stars in the galaxy! If you want to take a ride on the shuttle Discovery, then get hip to the real radio-active material on Cryptogramophone!

LeRoy Downs

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