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Scanner and the Post Modern Jazz Quartet - Blink of an Eye

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By Mark Saleski

The area of electro-acoustic music encompasses so many different sounds and constructions that the label itself is nearly meaningless. As the name implies, it is music created with both acoustic and electronic instruments. On my list of favorites are the Anthony Braxton/Richard Teitelbaum collaboration featuring synthesizers and contrabass clarinet, and Alvin Lucier's I Am Sitting In A Room. This pairing is instructive if only to illustrate that the two musics sound nothing like each other. The first brings together the ultra-deep contrabass clarinet and analog synths while the latter features the human voice and a recording of that voice put into a sort of infinite regression.

On Blink of an Eye, Scanner (a Mr. Robin Rimbaud) joins forces with an acoustic jazz lineup patterned after the great Modern Jazz Quartet: piano, vibraphone, bass, drums—that would be Khan Jamal on vibes, Matthew Shipp on piano, Michael Bisio (bass), and Michael Thompson on drums. Reminiscent of previous Shipp recordings such as Harmony and Abyss and Sorcerer Sessions, Scanner's role seems to be both reactive and minimalist: extending the harmonic ideas presented with subtlety (read: ...and taking care to not get in the way).

This doesn't necessarily imply that the electronic elements of these compositions must necessarily act as second-class citizens. No, what's important is that both elements work together to allow the overall sound to remain “natural," as if one could not exist without the other.

We hear this on tunes such as “Involuntary Reflex," we have skittery electronic percussion modernizing a set repeated set of chord changes. As the composition progresses, chiming pedal tones begin to float out on top of Jamal's vibraphone lines, giving the feeling of decay as those tones remain alone while the other instruments drop away. A somewhat similar approach is taken during “A Galaxy of Winking Dots," with shimmery notes reflecting off of Shipp's piano musings.

More aggressive transformations are presented on tracks such as “Dreaming With You At My Side" and “Not A Frame Earlier Or Later," where it sounds like the entire quartet has been pulled into Scanner's software, emerging draped with reverb and extra resonances. It's almost like listening to a person thinking about the music: a meta-composition.

So whether it's the descent into chaos of their take on Ellington's “C Jam Blues" or futuristic swing of “Most With The Least," Blink of an Eye has a lot to offer, presenting thought-provoking music that lives somewhere in the middle of the aforementioned Braxton/Teitelbaum-to-Lucier spectrum. Let's hope for a sequel.



Scanner with The Post Modern Jazz Quartet—Blink of an Eye by Thirsty Ear Recordings

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