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Clear by Conveniens

Clear is the rerelease of a 1987 album by a group known as Conveniens. It contains some of the most atypical free jazz arrangements that I have heard to date, if atypical can even be applied to free jazz, where almost anything can go. One radio station music director called this "hardcorenewagejazz." Very nice try, but even that may not be as accurate as one can get.

The group really consists of a duo, John Maz on drums and David Sterling Smith on keys. There is also a host of session musicians, most of whom I simply didn’t hear in this production of over-emphasized, extremely loud, and somewhat abrasive drumming combined with all manner of utterings and brief spurts of keys lacking melody of any recognizable form. In fact, the entire album, save a very nice piano piece here and there, is a maze of free expression that really never takes form for me. I found that I was a bit too irritated by the lack of any real melodic substance to truly appreciate whatever purpose, direction, or underlying message was to be discerned here.

Unfortunately, this album is another example of excessive self-absorption and not enough attention to what motivates listeners. I suspect that followers of free jazz might find the "center" in this production. For the rest of you, this may just send your comprehension spiraling downward more and more with each passing cut. It’s as if everything here is simply drowned out by the thud of the ever-relentless drums. Speaking of drums, I suppose there is a bright spot here in that Maz proves to be quite competent. That much is evident.

If you’re very much into drums, this might serve you well---or not. As for advocates of the freedom that this form of jazz might present, give it a listen and decide for yourself.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Conveniens
  • CD Title: Clear
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Reissue Original Release: 1987
  • Record Label: self-published
  • Musicians: John Maz (drums), David Sterling Smith (keys)
  • Rating: One Star
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