|DeChellis is one of many improvising musicians who feel close to the "new
music" tradition despite the obvious absence of through-composition in his
work. He does, however, organize his music somewhat in advance, using a
variety of strategies which are less interesting than the results
"With More..." (don't be put off by the titles) is an album of quintet
improvisations led by DeChellis and all of medium-long duration (9-15 mins).
The performers play it pretty straight, and you could be forgiven for
thinking this was a contemporary classical disc except perhaps for
Hernandez's violin, which has a ronsiny, unfinished sound.
Inevitably, these pieces are dominated by Anita DeChellis's vocal
performances, which are fortunately extremely robust, lively affairs. She
enjoys improvising with sounds, but she's quite capable of belting out a few
big notes, which is sometimes just what this sort of thing calls for. She
is, however, often willing to melt into the ensemble to give the others
space to move.
Space is, indeed, one of the defining virtues of this music. It never feels
crowded; DeChellis, one way or another, has found a way to replicate the
kind of layered, perforated sound which chamber groups get when playing,
say, Boulez. This is tough to do in improvised music and credit is due both
to him as the arranger and to the individual players.
Hernandez's tone is indeed a bit out of place, if the place is a classical
ensemble. Of course it isn't, and she sounds great; a strong feature at the
opening of track two reveals a splendidly imaginative, singing style with
enormous sensitivity to the effects of microtonal movements of pitch on what
her fellow musicians are doing.
Hernandez and DeChellis are, almost of necessity, the most note-oriented of
these five. Anita DeChellis is situated between them and the determinedly
non-pitched world of Fieldman or the ever-gliding sounds of Coleman's
Fieldman is the most conventionally "improv" of the lot, although it's hard
to see how he could be otherwise; his contributions provide a reminder of
this music's slightly bizarre hybrid state. Coleman swoops around this music
with the kind of control and intelligence which isn't easy to attain on this
hard-to-make-much-of instrument. Far from being a mere sound-effects guy,
Coleman plays real music here.
The four pieces represented here have all the calm rapturousness of really
good modernist vocal music. They are Romantic the way Schoenberg or Boulez
is Romantic, and they are truly wonderful things. Whether composition or
improvisation is the best way to achieve them will continue to be a vexed
question, but DeChellis adds to the mounting case for the latter's
Richard Cochrane, Musings