Third Eye Orchestra
Third Eye Orchestra
New York, NY
In 2006 thirteen of the most virtuosic New York instrumentalists to ever elude labels or boundaries came together at Roulette for an evening length performance to perform Hans Tammen's THIRD EYE ORCHESTRA. Not your usual “orchestra”, this musical vision takes the form of structured spontaneity cued live by the composer.
In this concept, composer Hans Tammen works with a score that is rearranged every time the piece is performed. Given the multiple results which issue from a single "composition" conducted (and so, created) twice through by Tammen on the same night, this album's two versions, "Antecedent" and "Consequent" demonstrate how compositional and interpretive processes can work together to everyone's benefit. You don’t even need to know the idea behind it in order to enjoy the astonishing array of emotional leaps.
Recipe: Take the single point of view of a composer-conductor, add in the multiple perspectives of a baker's dozen top-flight instrumental improvisers, and come up with sound that can boast both enough rigor of form and flights of fancy to satisfy all involved.
I've known of endangered guitar specialist Hans Tammen for many years mostly as an experimental guitarist whose approach to playing is distinctly his own. I was surprised to hear him at the Victo Fest last year accompany a dancer, playing mostly guitar-on-table and sampler and rarely using any normal" guitar-like sounds. I couldn't even tell he was playing guitar until I watched closely. For this disc, perhaps' Hans finest moment yet, he has dispensed with his guitar altogether and he plays or directs an amazing downtown all-star orchestra. At first I was surprised that I missed this dynamite concert, but realized later that it was the same month that Manny & I curated at The Stone, hence I was there every night but Mondays, when The Stone is closed.
This disc is split into two halves with 6 parts in each. The first six parts are called "Antecedent" and the second are called "Consequent." Hans brought together a most impressive downtown all-star orchestra for this concert and session. Right from the beginning of "Opening," the great microtonal specialist violinist Mari Kimura is dazzling us with her beyond-the-limits of normal range playing. I love the minimal, haunting background suspense while Marty Ehrlich plays his cautious bass clarinet. Each section features a different soloist or handful of soloists playing an inspired solo(s) over Hans' consistently engaging charts and/or direction. I dig the bent and barbed music that Hans has written, sections often don't last too long before they are transformed into another quirky section. Hans' wife, Dafna Naphtali is an extraordinary experimental vocalist and performs a few short but exciting solos. There are a number of superb solos from Mark Feldman, Detlef Landeck (a new name for me), Briggan Krauss, Robert Dick and Denman Maroney. This entire piece sounds well-planned, well-recorded and well-executed. Plus it is nearly 80 minutes long and it is consistently riveting for that long duration. Quite a great big bang for your buck. Again, the good folks at Innova have provided us with another modern day classic.
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
Tammen has staffed his Third Eye Orchestra with strong personalities like flautist Robert Dick and pianist Denman Maroney who ensure that its music is, if not the product of total democracy, at least episodically commanding. In fact, this record works best as a series of star turns and dialogues that succeed and fail according to the player's merits.
- Bill Meyer, The Wire
Those familiar with Hans Tammen most likely associate him with "endangered guitar," the term he's given his highly processed, largely textural electric guitar concept. Third Eye Orchestra is another aspect of his musical personality. Recorded live at Roulette, Downtown NYC's premier presenter of experimental music, Tammen guides a group of 13 exceptional free improvisers through two performances of his minimalist-inspired, multi-movement composition titled "Antecedent" (in its first guise) and "Consequent" (in its second). "Part I: Opening" begins with the eel-y improvised squiggles of Mari Kimura's violin. Groups of instruments make measured entrances. The atmosphere intensifies, then calms, as Marty Ehrlich plays a tightly focused, dynamically restrained bass clarinet solo. Ehrlich's improvisation ends the movement, yet serves largely as a segue into the next section, as Tammen's charges go on to explore nearly 80 minutes' worth of a nicely balanced mixture of improv and composition.
- Chris Kelsey, Jazz.com
...there are gorgeous fragments (haunting violin solos, a dreamy flute/cello duet, hypnotically intertwined horns and strings) as well as some captivating subversive moments (the electro-acoustic squiggle and squall of broken machines on "Antecedent," the big blustery groove that grows out of a looping Cageian motif on "Consequent").
- Sam Prestianni, East Bay Express
In jazz circles, New York is known for cultivating the sounds of the cutting edge; club Roulette has shown a particular seismographic ability to know what's happening at the fringes of jazz. If anything, the release of Hans Tammen Third Eye Orchestra underlines this with striking clarity.
An innovative avant-garde guitar guru, Hans Tammen is mostly known for his elusive technique of endangered guitar, but he's also the visionary behind the interesting contemporary avant-garde ensemble, The Third Eye Orchestra. Hans Tammen Third Eye Orchestra presents a live concert recorded at the Roulette. The pure thrill of exploring a world of sound really shines through on this release, which is nothing short of breathtaking.
The idea behind The Third Eye Orchestra is to gather some of the most exciting musicians on the improvising scene and let them perform music of instant composition under Tamman's guidance. The result is an otherworldly music that feels both thoroughly composed and purely improvised. Formally, the album is split into two sections: "Antecedent" and "Consequent." Each section is divided into six parts and every part brings forth different solo voices. "Part V - Verrano," for example, features Mark Feldman's awe-inspiring violin, who lets the notes soar like birds above the ground, spreading the light against the night sky of Denman Maroney's muffled, repeated keyboard figures.
The conclusion to "Antecedent" is just as impressive, with vocalist Dafna Naphtali chanting over washes of violin sounds and gentle noise. This is the language of poetic creation, with words compressed to pure sound: humming, scatting and screaming.
"Consequent" starts with Briggan Krauss' honking baritone sax and settles into an abstract groove, only to evolve into a beautiful dialogue between Maroney and violist Stephanie Griffin.
The orchestra includes a wealth of musical voices, but what's most amazing is how the individuals intuitively find their places in the sheets of sound, alternating between intimate, whispering confessions and cacophonic chaos. Overall, the mood of the album is tranquil, with rich textures and explorations of sound, rhythm and melody.
Ideally, music should appeal to all senses but it is as if this music actually instills a sixth sense or, perhaps, a third eye. What is cultivated then, is a new way of listening, which is what the historical avant-garde was always about—a new way of perceiving the world. Hans Tammen Third Eye Orchestra is a complete work of art that has the ability to change the world: a masterpiece of musical evocation.
- Jakob Baekgaard, All About Jazz
....Taken as a whole, both versions of the composition abound with similar connections and contrasts. “Consequent: Part IV: Intentionally Left Blank” for one, layers abrasive and shuddering multi-stops from the strings alongside vamping horn timbres and burbling, motor-driven electronic whizzing, held together by a solid bass line. But to isolate the praiseworthy skill that goes into the band members creating yet another slithering keyboard run or a bit of flying spiccato from a fiddler would be pointless.
More generic to the session is the realization that as a conductor, arranger and conceptualizer, Tammen now appears to have equaled his skill as an instrumentalist. One would hope that more large-scale works are planned for the future.....
- Ken Waxman, Jazzword