FLAM! BLAM! PAN-ASIAN MICROJAM
“Fiuczynski disarms audiences with his inquisitive spirit and
light-hearted audacity.” JAZZTIMES
“Fiuczynski’s settings bring it all to life with humor and excitement…
a delightfully eccentric clash of east and west.” JAZZWISE
“Extraordinary.” PROG REVIEW
““This is some righteous stuff!…Going outside the box is indeed
a good thing.” CRITICAL JAZZ
Fiuczynski opened the Pandora’s Box on non-Western tuning on his 2012 RareNoise Records debut, Planet MicroJam. He pushes the envelope even further on his latest microtonal project, Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian MicroJam! Jointly dedicated to 20th century classical composer Olivier Messiaen and innovative hip-hop record producer J Dilla, this ambitious venture has the guitarist-composer pursuing his passion for the notes that fall between the cracks with his intrepid microtonal crew. The seven movements that comprise Flam! instigated by Fiuczynski receiving a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, show the connections between exotic bird calls and J Dilla’s famous ‘flam beats’ while also referencing the colors of Messiaen’s music, Gagaku, the ancient court music of Japan, and other Pan-Asian ingredients. The three extra tracks that comprise Blam! feature special guest Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone. Fiuczynski is joined on both portions of his latest release by former Microjam Institute students Utar Artun on microtonal keyboard, Yazhi Guo on suona (Chinese oboe) and percussion, Helen Sherrah-Davies on violin, Jack Sherman on microtonal keyboard, Justin Schornstein on bass and Alex Bailey on drums.
After first hinting at a non-tempered vocabulary through his whammy bar articulations and fretless guitar playing with his band Screaming Headless Torsos during the ‘80s and ‘90s, guitarist-educator Dave “Fuze” Fiuczynski now finds himself knee-deep in the exotic world of microtones. As a guitar professor at the Berklee College of Music and director of its Planet MicroJam Institute, which engages in the study of microtonal harmonies that go beyond the 12-tone Western chromatic scale, the acclaimed guitarist and sonic adventurer maintains that 12-tones to an octave is just a suggestion. As he tells his students:
“There are other opportunities, things you can do. And when it comes to groove music, in terms of microtonality, you can really be a musical Captain Kirk and go where no man has gone before. The field is wide open.”
Throughout FLAM!, Fuze utilizes field recordings of five bird calls (the Common Loon, the Carolina Chickadee, the Northern Nightingale, the Blackface Solitaire and the Brazilian Uirapuru) and transcribes them to be played by the various instruments in his microtonal ensemble.
On the opening “Loon-y Tunes,” he employed the calls of the Common Loon and the Carolina Chickadee, then transposed the calls note-for-note onto fretless guitar, violin and microtonal keyboard. Pan-Asian aspects come into play in Fiuczynski’s Indian-flavored slide guitar solo on this first track. The call of the Northern Nightingale is used on “Flam” while “Q&A Solitaire,” a stunning showcase for violinist Sherrah-Davies, employs the call of the Blackfaced Solitaire. “Oiseaux JDillique” incorporates JDilla’s flam beats, Pan-Asian motifs and the call of the Nightingale while “Gagaku Chord Candy,” which contains elements of free jazz, has Fuze emulating an ancient Gagaku orchestra on his fretless guitar while utilizing some of Messiaen’s chords. And the final piece of FLAM!, “Waldstimmen” (“Forest Voices”) reprises all the bird calls together for a fitting conclusion.
The three additional tracks feature fire-breathing saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa on “Uira Happy Jam,” which is entirely based on the song of that sonorous Brazilian bird, the sparse “Organ Wren,” and the intense closer “Loon-ly Solitaire,” which has Fuze screaming with distortion-laced delight on his fretless guitar.
David Fiuczynski : guitars, keybards, percussion
Helen Sherrah-Davies : violin
Yazhi Guo : suona (Chinese oboe) and percussion
Utar Artun : microtonal keyboards, fender rhodes
Jake Sherman : microtonal keyboards, fender rhodes, piano
Justin Schornstein : electric bass
Alex ‘BisQuiT’ Bailey : drums and percussion
Rudresh Mahanthappa : alto sax (on tracks 8/9/10)
1. Loon-Y Tunes
2. Dance Of The UiraPuru
4. Q&A Solitaire
5. Oiseaux JDillique
6. Gagaku Chord Candy
8. Uira Happy Jam
9. Organ Wren
10. Loon-Ly Solitaire
More about Fuze’s Microtonal Odyssey at Fusion Magazine.