James Mulcro Drew
Animating Degree Zero
New World Records
Bonaroo Breaks (Street Funeral Music), on the other hand, has more of a sense of drive and direction. The two trombones play through a modular improvisational framework that perfectly captures the sense of a New Orleans street processional. The percussion is thin, simple, and extremely effective. As in Animating Degree Zero, there is a purity of the compositional idea that oozes through the piece. Not a note or gesture is out of place in the performance.
Twelve Centers Breathing for viola and percussion sounds like a template for the serene and expansive gestural language of Animating Degree Zero. Long, slow, sustained sounds with expansive pauses play out over the duration of the piece, never seeming to disturb the surrounding silences. The flow of time is set at a hypnotically slow pace and it is hard for me to listen to the music and do anything else.
The biggest surprise on the disc is The Lute in the Attic from 1963. Approximately 40 years the senior of any other work on the disc, this more expressionistic composition hints at the serene style that dominates the disc. There are some shockingly aggressive vocal moments at times that made me think of Eight Songs for a Mad King. Drew’s piece, though, was written 6 years earlier. Baritone Charles van Tassel does a great job balancing the smooth lyrical motion with the more harsh shouting eruptions.
The last two works, Solemn Acts in Rain and In Memoriam J. C. Higginbottom, return to the tender and blissful music found earlier on the recording. Solemn Acts in Rain drifts along without much trajectory but it drifts along nonetheless. The music floats around as if it were part of the ether. The pitch language is somber, as you might expect from the title, with a mixture of contemplation and disquiet throughout. In Memoriam J. C. Higginbottom follows up with the more mournful soundworld of a solo trombone in caverns of delay. The long tones become a smearing, shifting, oozing chorale that, like so many other works on this disc, simply sit timelessly until the sound stops. I think that even had I heard In Memoriam in a concert hall, I would still feel as alone as the trombonist.
"I am very happy with the ease and versatility with which I can share my content with my audience, clients and business partners alike."