Tue, Jan 01, 2013 - Page 12 News List

CD reviews

New York Times News Service

The music, rough and baleful, seems to have pretty old time-stamps on it, though. Much of “Parallax” sounds to me like the ‘80s or early ‘90s, reminiscent in passing of music by John Carter, Tim Berne, David S. Ware and many blended-together nights at the old Knitting Factory on Houston Street. It can sound like research into a variety of strategies: marches, groove, free rhythm; solo-bass features, sometimes double-tracked; blues language and collective improvisation; a Bob Kaufman poem interpreted variously in music by the band members; originals with small or jagged melodies and reworked old songs. (There are two pieces of old-time repertory: an emphatic, stomping version of Jelly Roll Morton’s Winin’ Boy Blues and a more indirect and wild paraphrasing of Fats Waller’s I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.)

The record is searching for a partnership of sound, and so the action pulls toward Moran and Waits, who have one: they’ve played together for more than a decade and instinctively lock together through feel and dynamics. Some of the album’s thrills, like the tossing, tumbling passages in the middle of Hyperthral, Split and IV, are essentially theirs. Revis follows his own internal mandate to be stormy or forthright in his improvising, and so does Vandermark, but they can seem isolated within the project. The record’s a good idea, and a good start; the band needs more time to gestate.



Ryan Blotnick


Ryan Blotnick, a guitarist approaching 30, has maintained a slippery self-containment in enough sociable settings — with the saxophonists Michael Blake, Pete Robbins and Bill McHenry; the Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble; and a range of musicians from Copenhagen, Denmark, where he earned a graduate degree — that he’s a strong candidate for a solo album. He’s not afraid of starkness or silence, and he knows how to spin a good yarn. He’s a natural.

Which isn’t to say that he skimps on preparation. Solo, Volume I, available as a pay-what-you-wish download at ryanblotnick.bandcamp.com, is a product of several summers in his home state of Maine spent working in hotels, restaurants and other for-hire settings. (On one wedding-services website, his customer rating is a perfect 5.0.) The album clocks in under 35 minutes and gives the sense of an intensely thoughtful design.

Blotnick clearly knows the tradition he’s accessing here. Lenny’s Ghost, the album’s longest track, is his nod to Lenny Breau; elsewhere he touches on the stark lyricism of John Fahey and the intricate fingerpicking technique of Leo Kottke. Dreams of Chloe, a wakening ballad processed with light distortion, and Hymn for Steph, a sober country waltz, evoke the recent solo guitar recordings of Marc Ribot. The Ballad of Josh Barton suggests a close study of some early acoustic Neil Young.

Every track but one was recorded with a 1959 Martin guitar — an acoustic model, but one with a pickup and volume and tone controls built in — and no overdubs or other studio manipulations. The sound, mixed and mastered by Marc Bartholomew, is pristine enough that you hear Blotnick’s fingertips lightly scudding across the strings. And the atmosphere is such that every liberty registers are both audacious and reasonable.

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