Given the shifting ensembles Guillermo Gregorio has assembled
on this session, it's easy to guess why the record is titled this way. All
of these various groupings of musicians move around ever so slightly, changing
the timbres and voicings of these chosen compositions just enough to matter.
And yes, Gregorio is being given the benefit of the doubt here, as it becomes
nearly impossible by the back sleeve to tell who goes where. And if listeners
are paying so much attention to the sleeve, how do they pay attention to the
music? Forget the sleeve — throw it and its pretentious liner notes
away (or at least hide them) — while listening to this fine work. Gregorio
is still sorting out his composing and arranging strengths, tilling the soil
of further development, and it's fascinating to see it all coming together.
With violinist Mat Maneri a near constant here (he's on all but one track,
Art Lange's composition, which is the spine of the album), he has an ally
in his articulation of a music that is not so much a melding of new classical
music and jazz, but a new jazz that is classical music. And he uses the tradition
in a manner that is akin to Franz Koglmann — whom he played with for
a number of years — but also moves away from the "white line"
that Koglmann focuses on so distinctly. In the first six pieces — "Approximately,"
"Two Ambiguities," "Aural," "In Absentia", "Caution,"
and "The Other Notes" — Gregorio, pianist Pandelis Karayorgis,
and Maneri, along with saxophonist Eric Pakula and bassist John Lockwood on
most of these pieces, forge a new jazz minimalism, where improvisation and
compositional elements are one, but they are also just that: elements. All
tonalities are decentered, all rhythmic notions are collapsible, and notions
of timbre, interval, harmony, texture, meter, and real time are all given
to subtle, quiet flux, interchangeably touched by other elements in a given
piece. As previously mentioned, Lange's "Four Shapes on Paper" is
the turnaround on the album. It's the only overly "new music" work
here and should have been left off. The tempos start to change and engage
on all four cylinders on "Kromos #2," with a killer clarinet solo
by Gregorio and Maneri's violin sawing away the harmonic scope underneath
him. Gregorio is still a bit of an academician, but at least he has a sense
of humor, and is very musical. Approximately is a fine album — if only
it weren't for that aggravating back sleeve.
“Argentinean reedman / composer Guillermo Gregorio shares music of grace and quiet urgency in Approximately. Drums would be vulgar, somehow. Writing for various combinations of reed (himself on alto and clarinet, Eric Pakula or tenor and alto), violin (Mat Maneri), piano (Pandelis Karayorgis) and bass (John Lockwood), Guillermo crafts a chamber music of insistent but subtle vitality.
Subtlety doesn't mean stasis. Gregorio has a great ear for
melodic contours, heard most deliciously when he matches saxophones with Pakula
(the title track, Aural, and their trio improvisation with Maneri The Other
Side of the Charles, are exceptional) and fluidity prevails. He tends to work
at very low volume, which makes the occasional affirmation (Kromos #2) that
much more powerful.”
This would not be the first time I have reviewed a jazz disc, so called, in art music's alpha section. As before, the label is hatART. Curious to note, and for my part coincidentally, the Buenos Aires-born, Indiana-based instrumentalist-composer, Guillermo Gregorio, performs on two of my favorite Franz Koglmann hatART CDs, Orte Der Geometrie (6018), and Cantos I-IV (6123), the second of which I reviewed in these pages very much for the reasons I apply here: with music like this, distinctions degrade to nonsense. Surely we are as close to classical's cutting-edge rigors are as we are to jazz's rather more familiar comforts. (The irony of "cutting-edge" intrudes like a keening banshee. Much present-day art music is anything but. "Sugared butt-end" rather. Best to let it go as inapplicable to our present needs.)
Art Lange, normally a hatART annotator, co-produced Approximately with Guillermo Gregorio and contributed a composition, Four Shapes on Yellow Paper, to the mix. As the tray card puts it, Two Ambiguities, In Absentia, Equilibrium, and The Ocher Side of The Charles are "the result of a collective creation by the musicians.'' Violinist Mat Maneri did the good recording, assisted by Miranda lngani, Aaron Spivak, and Eric Rosenthal. With results sometimes disastrous it is no rare event that a participating instrumentalist acts also as recording engineer. Happily, these present examples register as excellent shading toward warmish: indeed, I was gulled into hearing the whole of Approximately as mellower in character than it really is. Maneri appears as violinist and co-engineer on another hatART Jazz Series CD. 6188, Joe Maneri Quartet/Dahabenzapple. That disc's annotator, our own Art Lange, is in typical verbal fettle: bright, airborne feathers of subtle observation waft well above the hurly-burly's grunge, and so we never do learn whether Mat is Joe's brother, son, nephew, or what. It is Dahabenzapple's French-language annotator, Jean Buzelin, who, knee-deep in the muck of facts, Iets us in on the secret. Mat is Joe's son. Which brings us to another coincidence: reasonably enough, the Massachusetts-based Joe Maneri Quartet recorded Dahabenzapple in Boston. Guillermo Gregorio's ensemble recorded Approximately in Cambridge, MA. Annotator John Corbett explains: .... Gregorio looked to the East—specifically. Boston (home to a substantial 'cooler' legacy...."
The remaining pieces, Approximately, Aural, Caution, The Other Notes (including 17" of Turmoil by Pete Rugolo), The Cloud, Cambridge Excavation, Some Reflections on "Marionette" (Wm. H. Bauer, arr. Gregorio), Kromos #2, and Composition with Gray & Blue are Gregorio's. Corbett provides an interesting bio: Gregorio has studied architecture and written and lectured on Buckminster Fuller and contemporary design, and, on the music side, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy, Morton Feldman, LaMonte Young, and Harry Partch, among others. I mention a stimulating motley as a kind of presentation for the treats that await. For hearing this disc is what I urge you to do, whatever your musical preferences.
In certain felicitous instances, when challenged beyond his
capabilities, a reviewer can cheat by making comparisons: both Gregorio and
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