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Denman Maroney: Fluxations

A good amount of free jazz is made by improvisers attempting-consciously or unconsciously-to adapt post-Schoenberg compositional techniques to a largely improvised music. Pianist/composer Denman Maroney can be distinguished from most in that he brings to the table at least as much experience with European-derived music as with jazz. As a consequence, his music is more fully (and perhaps more authentically) informed by the classical principles he’s adopted. The concept governing the music on Fluxations (New World Counter Currents) is, according to the liner notes by JazzTimes contributor Bill Shoemaker, based on a technique of rhythmic organization utilizing “pulse fields”-something too complicated to explain here and probably just as difficult to perform in a jazz setting. Fortunately, Maroney and his band-Kevin Norton, drums and vibes; Dave Ballou, trumpet; Ned Rothenberg, bass clarinet and alto sax; Mark Dresser, bass-do a good job of translating theory into action; the music here is well-organized, but you’re not overly conscious of its origins.

The pulse-field stuff makes for some interesting ostinati over which to blow, as on the suite’s “Part 3,” where Ballou’s elastic trumpet is given room to shine. One might expect such music to seem about as spontaneous as building a skyscraper. It’s true, an air of reticence does lie over some of this music, as if the players aren’t sufficiently comfortable with the material to cut loose. Nevertheless, it’s quite attractive in its peculiarly brainy way-a bit dry and fussy at times, but never less than fascinating.

Originally Published