|Orphic Machine (March 24, 2015)
Ben Goldberg — Orphic Machine (March 24, 2015)•» An award–winning clarinetist, composer, writer, and teacher, who is also a founding member of Tin Hat.
Born: August 8, 1959
Origin: Denver, Colorado, United States
Location: University of California, Santa Cruz ~~ Berkeley, California
Album release: March 24, 2015
Record Label: The Royal Potato Family / BAG
01. Reading 10:11
02. Line Of Less Than Ten 6:13
03. Bongoloid Lens 3:12
04. Immortality 12:05
05. The Inferential Poem 13:03
06. How To Do Things With Tears 1:38
07. Care 13:23
08. The Present 6:39
09. What Was That 5:58
10. The Orphic Machine 12:44
•» Carla Kihlstedt: voice & violin;
•» Ben Goldberg: B–flat clarinet & contra–alto clarinet;
•» Ron Miles: trumpet;
•» Rob Sudduth: tenor saxophone;
•» Myra Melford: piano;
•» Nels Cline: guitar;
•» Kenny Wollesen: vibraphone, chimes, drums (3);
•» Greg Cohen: bass;
•» Ches Smith: drums, vibraphone (3).
•» Molly Barker Logo
•» Yuki Bowman Layout
•» David Breskin Producer
•» Mimi Chakarova Photography
•» Nels Cline Guitar (Electric)
•» Greg Cohen Bass
•» Eli Crews Assistant Engineer
•» Joe Gastwirt Mastering
•» Ben Goldberg Arranger, Clarinet, Composer, Primary Artist
•» Alan Grossman Composer
•» Carla Kihlstedt Violin, Vocals
•» Myra Melford Piano
•» Ron Miles Trumpet
•» Fredrik Nilsen Photography
•» Ron Saint Germain Engineer, Mixing
•» Ches Smith Drums
•» Rob Sudduth Sax (Tenor)
•» Ted Tuthill Assistant Engineer
•» Kenny Wollesen VibraphoneREVIEW
By NATE CHINEN; APRIL 27, 2015
•» The high degree of difficulty on “Orphic Machine,” an enveloping new album by the clarinetist Ben Goldberg, has little to do with the formal intricacy or catalytic chemistry in his music.
•» The challenge comes from Mr. Goldberg’s inspiration for the album: “Summa Lyrica: A Primer of the Commonplaces in Speculative Poetics,” a book–length essay by Allen Grossman.
•» An influential work of poetic theory ever since its publication more than 20 years ago, it’s hardly a natural candidate for a musical adaptation. But Mr. Goldberg, who had Mr. Grossman as an undergraduate professor in the late–’70s, brings a light touch and a soulful ear. There’s little that rings emotionally heavy here, even though Mr. Grossman’s death last year at 82 imparts a whiff of elegy to this music.
•» Mr. Goldberg marshals some of the sharpest improvisers on the scene into a dynamic orchestra. Carla Kihlstedt, his fellow member of the style–blending chamber group Tin Hat, takes center stage through most of “Orphic Machine,” singing verses excerpted from the original text. That it works so bewitchingly is a testament to Ms. Kihlstedt’s coolheaded, unflashy singing, and to Mr. Goldberg’s graceful way with a melody. On “Immortality,” they even bring a sly sensuality to the first line of Mr. Grossman’s argument: “The function of poetry is to obtain for everybody one kind of success at the limits of the autonomy of the will.” (Yes, somehow it works.)
•» Besides Ms. Kihlstedt, who also plays violin, “Orphic Machine” features the trumpeter Ron Miles and the tenor saxophonist Rob Sudduth, blending or jostling by turns with Mr. Goldberg’s woodsy clarinet. The rhythm section consists of Nels Cline on electric guitar, Kenny Wollesen on vibraphone, Myra Melford on piano, Greg Cohen on bass and Ches Smith on drums.
•» On a piece like “Care,” the ensemble floats from one clear melodic premise to the next, never sounding overdetermined or strained. The title track begins in rustling pianistic reverie, turns into a kind of soul dirge, shifts into oblique art song with classical counterpoint, and finally succumbs to a crushing accumulation of distorted guitar: all of it unpredictable, most of it thrilling.
•» More than anything, Mr. Goldberg seems to have taken at face value, with imaginative care, his former teacher’s note in the essay’s preface: “A Primer of the Commonplaces in Speculative Poetics,” omitted a word from a quotation from the preface to the essay. It says, “Above all, this is a text for use, intended like a poem to give rise to thoughts about something else,” not “to rise to thoughts about something else.” •» http://www.nytimes.com/ © Ben Goldberg with contra alto clarinet, Photo by Ken Weiss
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek; Score: ****½
•» Consciously or not, Ben Goldberg's Orphic Machine is the realization of a project he's been working on for years. It was inspired by the late poet, professor, and MacArthur Fellow Allen Grossman's Summa Lyrica: A Primer of the Commonplaces in Speculative Poetry. Aphorisms were carefully chosen by the composer for their ability to turn meaning inside out metalinguistically — these are poems about poems that transcend the form's margins to embrace questions about the nature of consciousness and being. He wrote an astonishing range of musical settings for them, played by a nonet comprising players he's long been associated with: violinist/vocalist Carla Kihlstedt, vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen, bassist Greg Cohen, guitarist Nels Cline, pianist Myra Melford, trumpeter Ron Miles, drummer Ches Smith, and saxophonist Rob Sudduth. Over ten songs ranging from under two minutes to over 13, Goldberg recombinantly presents jazz, klezmer, blues, tango, cabaret, modern classical music, boleros, and vanguard pop ambitiously yet with requisite taste. If there is an anchor here, it's Kihlstedt. Her relaxed yet breathy voice focuses each verse even as meanings shift and turn for the listener. She prefaces or intersperses them between instrumental interludes. On "Line of Less Than Ten" she hovers just above nocturnal, gauzy vibes, guitar, piano, and drums: “in the line less than ten syllables transformations occur...,” stopping as Miles enters with a bluesy, lyrical solo, then begins again as the entire band comes together alongside her and does just that. On "Immortality," she reedily sings: “the function of poetry is to obtain for everybody one kind of success....” After the verse, Miles' muted horn minimally alters the lilting, languid melody. Melford shimmers in with lithe chords, fills, and a brief solo, and after the third verse, tango and klezmer take center stage. Goldberg lays out a killer solo, and the words turn back on themselves almost ecstatically: “the limits of autonomy of will discovered in poetry are death death death....” The band reacts with a celebratory, jazzy R&B groove with wonderful interaction from Cline and Sudduth. Among the three instrumentals in this set is the knotty blues of "Bongoloid Lens," with Cline, Goldberg, Miles, and Sudduth all dialoguing above the rhythm section. Goldberg, Melford, and Miles interweave on the parlor song "How to Do Things with Tears." "Care" offers a tender pop melody, textured by Wollesen's resonant vibes. Staggered melody lines from Miles, Sudduth, Goldberg, and Kihlstedt's violin add emotional depth: “i acknowledge all the nonsense of which i seem to be the sense....” Seamless movement between post-bop, modal jazz, Latin grooves, and blues assert themselves before Cline takes an angular blues solo. This may be a jazz record, but its appeal is not limited by genre. Fans of Joanna Newsom, Van Dyke Parks, Charles Mingus, and John Zorn will all find much to enjoy. Orphic Machine is wildly ambitious and sophisticated, but is also graceful, emotionally honest, and accessible. It makes the profound embraceable and, as a result, is a masterpiece.
Early Reviews are in:
•» “Goldberg has created a brilliant homage to Grossman with this sequence of musical settings of his teacher’s witty thoughts on poetics.” — Downbeat
•» “Nothing prepared me for his remarkable new album, Orphic Machine...It’s clearly Goldberg's baby, and it’s probably the strongest record I’ve heard yet this year.” — The Chicago Reader
•» “A suite of beautiful, intricate and strangely compelling songs... Artfully orchestrated with horn chorales and counterpoint, this songful music brings Bach, the Beatles, Charles Ives and Thelonious Monk to mind.” — SF Chronicle
•» “Orphic Machine is wildly ambitious and sophisticated, but is also graceful, emotionally honest, and accessible. It makes the profound embraceable and, as a result, is a masterpiece.” — All Music Guide
•» “An absolutely striking album, supremely enchanting, and when measured in terms of difficulty of challenge, an outstanding achievement. Go buy this album. It’s one of the best purchases you’ll make all year.” — Bird Is The Worm
•» “...a species of art song, but that term doesn’t capture this music’s wildly fetching mix of jazz, folk, soul, cabaret, blues and tango...” — Down Beat (4 1/2 star review)
•» “Allen Grossman, by the way, passed away just last year. Orphic Machine is a testament to the immortality of forward–thinking ideas that keep the soul of its originator alive after the body has passed. It’s also testament that a part of Grossman remains alive in Goldberg, who has sublimely assimilated so many disparate influences, and is able to distill them into a product he projects through his own, kaleidoscopic lens.” — Something Else! Reviews
Chris Alarie | January 27th, 2015 | Score: 85
|Orphic Machine (March 24, 2015)