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Ghost Stories

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Album Review

A composer and player of woodwinds and reeds, Ned Rothenberg has, this time out, assembled a collection of works loosely based around the theme of counterpoint. He achieves this both literally and figuratively by, as he indicates, "Interweaving of melodic line, rhythmic meter and emotional and sonic textures...." What that means, simply, is that by creating episodes where various materials — in this case instruments, the individuals who play them, and the sounds they make — meet in different, perhaps even unmusical settings, an undetermined set of results is produced as the sum of their interaction. On "Arbor Vitae," Rothenberg's clarinet is joined contrapuntally by Riley Lee's shakuhachi flute playing. And while it's true that the clarinet has a much wider sonic palette to work with, Rothenberg foregoes many of his polytonal techniques such as circular breathing and creating overtones, in order to play as accompanist, to create an atmosphere for the shakuhachi to expand its sound world to the limit. On the title track, with Min Xiao-Fen on pipa, Erik Friedlander on cello, and Satoshi Takeishi's percussion work, Rothenberg places the pipa in contrast to the rhythmic, truly polytonal architecture created by the two rhythm instruments, and Xiao-Fen is subtly coerced into finding a place to stand both inside and outside that framework. What is so striking about the four compositions on Ghost Stories is Rothenberg's gentility. While these compositions are rigorous for the players, who are encountering limits and yet are breaking new ground in each measure, there is a quiet elegance, a civility inherent in even the most adventurous of these works ("Duet for Alto Saxophone and Percussion"). And at their most simple — the gorgeous performance (for the first time on record) of "Kagami," a solo for shakuhachi by Rothenberg — a kind of rugged individuality leaves little room for florid excess. As fine a collection of Rothenberg's work as you are likely to find anywhere.


Born: 15 September 1956 in Boston, MA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Multi-reedist Ned Rothenberg composes and performs on saxophones, flutes -- including shakuhachi -- and bass clarinet. Active as a solo artist and avant-garde jazz performer since (at least) the '70s, Rothenberg performed in Anthony Braxton's Creative Orchestra project in 1978. He moved to N.Y.C. in 1978, and went on to lead Power Lines (New World) and Double Band (on the Moers label). Rothenberg is a founding member of New Winds, with flutist Robert Dick and trumpeter Herb Robertson. He performs...
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Ghost Stories, Ned Rothenberg
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