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TOM ABBS & FREQUENCY RESPONSE - The Animated Adventures of Know [CD & DVD set] (482 Music 1039)
Featuring Tom Abbs on bass, tuba, dijeradoo, strings & compositions, Oscar Noriega on clarinets & alto sax, Okkyung Lee on cello, Jean Cook on violin, Alex Harding on bari sax and Chad Taylor on drums & vibes. Tom calls this movie, "an emotional portrait in sound and images". Tom Abbs is one of the more formidable bassists and composers to emerge from the downtown scene in the recent past. Although this is his second disc as a leader, he can heard on a dozen recordings with Cooper-Moore in Triptych Myth, Ori Kaplan, Steve Swell and Jemeel Moondoc. When I've caught him live, what is most striking is the way he has a dijeradoo and a violin attached to his contrabass, playing them all at the same time. An immense amount of work has gone into the preparation and making of this music and movie. The music does have a most cinematic quality to it with each section evoking a variety of moving, yet connected images. The first disc features just the music and it unfolds slowly, one section (of nine) at a time. While the bass and drums create the skeleton, Oscar Noriega's thoughtful bass clarinet and Okkyung's eerie cello play haunting harmonies together. On "Awakening", the buzzing strings erupt together while Oscar's clarinets sail through the center calmly concentrating, while the surrounding frenzy continues until the vibes and percussion take us out to a more spacious conclusion. Okkyung Lee has a unique way of twisting the strings of her cello and on "Rebellion", both she, Tom on bass and Jean Cook on violin, all bend their strings inside-out in a way that is quite mesmerizing and perhaps a bit scary, at least until Oscar's clarinet calms things down a bit. On "Division", two clarinets (Alex & Oscar) both stretch their notes out ominously as the strings and drums create suspense-filled textures, when the dijeradoo comes in it as if some cosmic ritual is taking place and spirits are being set free. A marvelous Trane-like prayer/communion. What Tom does best is creating layers of textures while one or people takes inspired solos. While Alex Harding takes a screaming baritone sax solo on "Holding On", the rest of the ensemble swirl in waves around him, often dense and quite riveting at times.
The movie itself includes the same music, yet the visuals add another dimension to the experience. Each scene begins with a few written sentences describing an idea to think about as we view the moving images. We see a young boy running and rolling in a field as well as some blurred images. Some of the dizzying images of buildings, the ground moving as we walk down a city block and hyper-activity of people racing by fit the chaotic music very well indeed. For me, the theme here is the alienation of modern life, as well as the balance between the simplicity of nature and the complexity of dealing with life around us. We are all at odds with this precarious balance in life, so this movie does make sense on a few levels. Although there a feeling of uneasiness that runs through the entire work, this does makes it more like life itself.