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San Francisco Bay Area Composer James Armstrong Releases "Looking Ahead" For Solo Piano


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James Armstrong
James Armstrong's 2012 solo piano recording has been released through the Downloads NOW! digital distribution service in 44kHz, 96kHz, DFF, and DSF formats.

This latest session is an extended, one hour improvisation at an 1885 Steinway at OTR Studios, Belmont. It was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Cookie Marenco in an Extended Sound Environment (E.S.E.). It is currently the largest digital file offered by the Downloads NOW! service.

About Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead is a highly experimental form, to the extent that it exploits an unconventional long-take as a structural device. I wanted to see what effects would emerge from a relatively brief, composed theme, which was allowed to develop in open space.

To be sure, extended takes are not an entirely original device. The late film director Michelangelo Antonioni used them in such masterpieces as Blow Up (1966) and The Passenger (1975), to great expressive effect. The unexpected strategies brought audiences very close to Antonioni's characters, which had not been done in cinema before.

In my preparations for this recording, I realized that music scores in two dimensions were a just a starting point, and that literal readings of them had become irrelevant. I decided to focus on hues, and their implications. —James D. Armstrong, Jr.

About James Armstrong

James Armstrong has explored concurrent paths in improvisation and modern classical music since his 1979 graduation from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Past projects include trios, quartets, and inventions for small ensembles—volatile, labor-intensive music with a marked pantonal focus. Now working on original repertoire for solo performance.

“He has a firm grasp of the sheer power of Monk, often slamming the keys to create a shattering dissonance...he understands the rhythmic complexities of Cecil Taylor and the intellectualism of Andrew Hill. He has used these strong influences to create a personal style, always saving room for the purity of his own fingers on the keys. It is through his touch, his feel for the instrument that he achieves his individual power..." —Stefan Zeniuk, Jazz Now


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