Touching Extrenes review by Massimo Ricci

Pianist (or “hyperpianist”? Hold on, please) Denman Maroney is clearly trustful in the abilities of an average mind. Trying to explain the polyrhythmic concepts that underscore the large part of this music, he says that “there are at least two and more often three tempos going; the listener is free to choose which one(s) to relate to”. Perhaps this musician is not aware of the fact that the majority of a typical audience is not even able to stay anchored to a rudimentary 4/4 with a couple of shifted accents, let alone a superimposition of composed metres. Many pathetic characters come out with various kinds of bullshit about complex mathematic “mysteries” underlying the perfection of the universe, yet they could not name an interval or an elementary beat if threatened at gunpoint. Such sorts of involuntary victims of artistic diversity are not likely to be grateful for the labyrinthine qualities of this excellent album. Hell, this group doesn’t swing, if not for an allowed minimum.

Right, the hyperpiano. Besides numerous interlocking figurations executed with concentrated investigational attitude, Maroney – who appears positively gifted with a scintillating musicality coming from the insides of his brain – frequently plays the “regular” keyboard with a hand while enjoying the pleasures of extended techniques with another, the whole enhanced by the exploitation of several objects on the strings which generate “complementary overtones that move in contrary motion, one down toward the fundamental and the other up toward infinity”. Already fantasizing in regard to enhancement of awareness and realization? Wrong: the record’s title is the contraption of “undertone identity”, a concept introduced by Harry Partch which is too complicated to tackle in a sheer review. You can still learn the definition and use it in your intellectual conversations: nobody – except a few brighter individuals – go actually checking for the truthful core of these things, otherwise a lot of sapient icons would be swallowed by the very blob of their appalling ignorance.

Let’s not digress, though: the quintet performs fabulously throughout Udentity. Ned Rothenberg (alto sax, clarinets) employs a toothsome transitoriness in the methods applied, alternating altruistic repetition bathed in cutting dissonance and interchangeable anti-patterns which dignify the entire timbral tissue. He’s perfectly corresponding to the trumpet of Dave Ballou, who on a different side of the blowing spectrum avoids any kind of hypertrophic irresponsibleness, privileging lines that – although extremely respectful of the composer’s original plan – shine for intelligent restraint. If Michael Sarin’s drumming is entirely perfect for the overall design of these creations, his sober delivery a true injunction against the smell of moth-eaten “flexibility” characterizing the bulk of jazz drummers, bassist Reuben Radding is to be admired both as a solid donor of corpulent foundations for the general structure and an extemporaneous originator of bedazzling melodic sketches in places where an arcoed elegy is probably going to lead a sensitive receiver to deeper perceptions than an innocuous “pulse”.

Just to give a vague idea of how this stuff sounds, let me tell you that those whose ear-training includes Stravinsky and Zappa should greet this CD pretty warmly. Maroney has managed to tickle our interest with complications that sound good, lively, natural, without a hint of agony. Discomposure and angst are to be found somewhere else; here, we only appreciate an outstanding collective control over a series of well-developed strategies.

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