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Duane Pitre - Feel Free

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Artist: Duane Pitre

Album: Feel Free

Label: Important

Review date: Jul. 12, 2012

Feel Free isn’t simply the title of Duane Pitre’s latest album. The phrase is also an imperative, one of Pitre’s directives for the sextet of musicians who play the piece. A more traditional composer might have used some Italian, but, while they sound more exotic, A bene placito or Ad libitum don’t roll off of the tongue in quite the same way. Regardless of what you call it, it’s the musician’s prerogative that rules the day, with Pitre taking on an approach that takes his hands from the wheel before the music is even set in motion. Feel Free is a different piece each time it’s performed, and this album captures one iteration of its comforting chaos, a gentle reminder it’s possible to embrace the accidental without making a mess.

At the core of Feel Free is the composition’s conductor, of sorts. Pre-recorded guitar harmonics are presented in no particular (or predictable) order, its small, spherical volleys floating in the air, scattered across the stereo field. The strings come in slowly, at first in pizzicato mimicry, creating a light rainfall that falls around the listener’s head. As the violin, cello and contrabass begin to stretch singly plucked notes in longer, bowed arcs, and the harp and dulcimer start to engage in longer strings of notes, the piece slowly builds, though never with grand gestures or anything approaching a hurried pace. The harmonics on which the music is built don’t disappear until close to the piece’s end, but as the drones grow and the unison playing increases, individual contributions begin to be overwhelmed by the whole. By the end of the disc, beautifully dense layers of strings have truly come to the fore, massive and rich, clouding out the harmonics, which fade away almost unnoticeably as the musicians play on, slowly bringing the performance to its peaceful conclusion.

Despite his use of chance and improvisation in Feel Free, Pitre cites rhythm and melody as core concerns in the composition of the piece. They’re present in fleeting fragments, born of the patterns and overlaps that are created through the quick reactions of the musicians to the sounds that surround them. The intentionality of Feel Free is what gives it potency. The randomness occurs within a well-orchestrated intricacy, one which facilitates ephemeral moments of magic and spins them into an often dazzling web.

By Adam Strohm

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