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Scott Rosenberg - Creative Orchestra Music Chicago 2001

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Artist: Scott Rosenberg

Album: Creative Orchestra Music Chicago 2001

Label: New World

Review date: Feb. 4, 2004

More listeners are familiar with Scott Rosenberg’s mentor Anthony Braxton than with the 30-something reedist/composer himself. But despite his relatively brief career span thus far, Rosenberg has contributed mightily to improvised music. Moving between San Francisco, Berlin, New York, and Chicago, he has slowly amassed a body of working ranging from solo performance (the excellent V, on Umbrella), to duos (particularly his meeting with Braxton on Barely Auditable), to numerous fine small group records (standouts are the Skronktet West date on Spool and the superb Owe on Cadence Jazz). From his earliest dates, Rosenberg has steadily developed a distinct improvisational approach, crafting his own personal instrumental idiom on multiple reeds (incorporating extreme extended techniques, non-linear playing, but also manic post-bop energy) and developing this with a close group of capable and sympathetic players. Yet though Rosenberg was actively involved in large ensemble work in the Bay Area (including leading the Micro Collective and recording IE), it’s only with this fabulous release that he’s come into his own in this setting.

Working with a huge ensemble (boasting a raft of strings, brass, reeds, and percussion, and including notables from both the Bay Area and Chicago – reedists Kyle Bruckmann and Matt Bauder, bassist Jason Roebke, brass players Jeb Bishop and Todd Margasak, guitarist John Shiurba, and percussionists Tim Daisy and Jerome Bryerton, though the collective is equally distinctive), Rosenberg conducts five well realized pieces composed using a variety of influences. The majority of the pieces reveal Rosenberg’s affinity for the timbral experiments of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (particularly the large ensemble work of Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell) and Wadada Leo Smith, and he does a great job of combining large ensemble power with an instinct for arrangements that highlight instrumental color and detail. That’s really tough to pull off, particularly with scores that – like these – demand aleatory playing. Perhaps Rosenberg is able to do this because he is well-versed in the work of the so-called New York School (John Cage, Earle Brown, Morton Feldman) as well as composers like Giacinto Scelsi and Stockhausen. What results is, on pieces like “Tehr” or the madly polyphonic “7x with Sttm,” an unexpected combination of floating, modulating tonalities with exacting, rhythmically dense lines. On “Wash” there are even moments which hint at melody. But it sounds to me as if the group’s heart is really in the Braxton-influenced pieces like “Forgetting Song,” where tight instrumental groupings (like marimba, drums, and raunchy guitar) lay down a pulse track from which multiple lines coil out like tendrils. Hey, it’s not for nothing that this disc’s title invokes the seminal Braxton record of 1976.

What really stands out is not just the superb instrumentalism or the finely wrought composing, but Rosenberg’s gift for marshalling the vast resources of this group. Rough metallic textures blend with tart reeds, Berberian-like vocals, and cooling-embers brass, creating a shifting palette for expressionism within structure. Rosenberg keeps going from strength to strength on his recordings. Don’t miss out on this one.

By Jason Bivins

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