TRANS trans museq 1
La Donna Smith / viola, piano, ARP 2600, drums, voice, organ, Davey Williams / electric, acoustic, and fretless guitars, alto saxophone, Theodore Bowen / string bass, tenor saxophone, oboe, percussion, James Hearon / violin, clarinet, electric guitar, piano, Timothy Reed / alto flute, trumpet, trombone, flounder bunte.
Recorded: Summer and Fall 1976, Alabama.
Utilizing total improvisation as a methodology, Transcendprovisation brings to their music an aesthetic awareness similar to that of the English improvisers. Yet it reflects little, if any, direct influence, and there are significant differences in points of departure.
There’s more attention, for example, to color, texture, and flow, and less to the kind of quick, wide-ranging rhythmic leaps so commonplace among the English musicians. Rhythm, in fact, seems to occur almost by itself, as a result of the interaction of textural layers – though conversely, there’s a definite feeling of pulse, probably more so than in the English music. There’s also a greater sense of “line” (melodic or no) and much more thoroughly working through particular areas of sound. So there’s a tension in length of line and in the momentary refusal to budge from certain tonal explorations, often made explicit through the use of repetition. Similarly, there’s a greater dramatic sense than in the English music (though this frequently occurs within “multiple” contexts) and more concern with affect than with virtuosity for its own sake – which underlines one of the most important differences, namely that the product here seems to be of as much importance as the process, whereas in the English music, the process of creation has become largely its own justification. So that the musicians of Transcendprovisation might better be referred to as spontaneous composers rather than total improvisers, even though they in fact totally improvise.
At least, that’s the sense I have of the music hearing it on record – and it’s very fine music indeed, full of freshness and life, and well beyond the clichés of the contemporary “jazz” scene or even any open identification with it at all. In that, it is one of the most significant American records to be released in a long time, one that truly demands to be heard.
Henry Kuntz, 1977
more on Trans Museq here…