Pat O'Keefe/Jason Stanyek/Scott Walton/Glen Whitehead - "Tunnel" (Circumvention Music 2003, CD038)

Uploaded to Aural Innovations: January 2004

The quartet of Pat O'Keefe (clarinet, bass clarinet), Jason Stanyek (fretless & quarter-tone guitars), Scott Walton (piano, bass) and Glen Whitehead (trumpet) formed in 1995 and the music on Tunnel, their second album, was recorded in 1999. There are 7 tracks, alternating between shorter 4-5 minutes pieces and lengthier workouts, and all improvised. Shorter tracks like "Threshold" and "Boundaries" show the quartet at their most aggressive. "Threshold" features tortured screeching and scratched strings and intense sonic noise-rock textures matching wits with lighter whimsical horn and wind segments. And on "Boundaries" the musicians surprised me by cranking out a cacophonous, freaked out, punkish, space fest. This is one of those tracks that makes me realize why we love covering avant-garde free-improv music in a Space Rock zine.

"Trace" is a standout track that opens with slowly developing drones and atmospherics that have an avant-garde symphony hall quality, with the strings performing light dances and the clarinet and trumpet moaning and fluttering like a the howls of wind and wolves. I really felt at times like I was being swept across a harsh windswept landscape. The musical sensation was somewhere between Kronos Quartet and Carl Stallings overdosed on valium, and the lightest moments were often the most intense. We're talking major drones that vibrate in your skull while the clarinet, trumpet and piano are lulling you with a handful of notes that are low volume but intensely expressive statements.

"Graft" begins similar to "Trace", but with more of a symphony feel. Trumpet and clarinet wail while the piano creates a deep concert hall intensity. But the mood shifts dramatically throughout the piece, including some freaky alien bits that sound like electronics are being used, though I'm guessing it's Stanyek's guitars. An enjoyable blend of jazz and classical influences incorporated into an experimental sound construction work, with an emphasis on mood and atmosphere. "Measure" is similar, though much more sparse and even more subtly intense, developing steadily throughout it's 17 minute length. At times we get even deeper into experimental sound construction territory, with a variety of techniques used to wrench all sorts of fun sounds from the instruments.

In summary, O'Keefe, Stanyek, Walton and Whitehead have created an absorbing set of improvs that focus equally on atmosphere and thoughtful sound creation within a freeform and free flowing jazz, classical and sometimes rock context.

For more information you can visit the Circumvention Music web site at:
Contact via snail mail c/o Cirumvention Music; PO Box 948609; La Jolla, CA 92037.

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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