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The J Band with Special Guests at Rhinebeck, NY

On Friday evening, March 31, 2000 at the Rhinebeck Performing Arts Center was the US premiere performance of the J Band. The J Band is Joe McPhee on reeds, Joe Giardullo on reeds, and, from France, Jerome Bourdellon on flutes and reeds. Special guest performers were Dominic Duval on bass and from Italy, Luciano Pagliarini on alto saxophone.

Jerome Bourdellon initiated the first set with a solo on bass flute. The muted tones he produced projected an altogether feathery character, which had intermittent perkiness that evolved into reedy rhythmic patterns. Jerome's little finger worked the valves constantly; the flute became an undetachable part of his body. The air blown through the instrument imitated a whistle. The whistling developed into actual singing. The tempo moved from slow to quick. Sporadic high pitches led into double tones, and then Bourdellon spit into his flute with commitment and rhythmic continuity. The sound gradually became a quiet wave and then there was silence.

McPhee, Giardullo , & Duval next positioned themselves on the stage with Bourdellon. Joe McPhee stayed to the left, Duval and his bass sustained a center and Joe Giardullo became the changing element, moving from one side of the stage to the other, playing with McPhee at some points, as himself at other points, and with Bourdellon at others. Giardullo created the ebb and flow of what was to become a journey in search of peace of spiritual being.

At the beginning, McPhee and Bourdellon set the outer limits of this music. They both became the drones for the activity that would go on between them. They eventually would change instruments along with the rest of the musicians. McPhee blew a steady somewhat unvaried tone through a 12' long didjeridu made of PVC piping. Bourdellon played an equally gentle, steady, minimally varied melody on the shakuhachi. Duval focused on bowing the bass in its lowest register. It was as if the audience were witnessing the monks from Tuva, whose voices maintained a similar pitch, all the while creating inevitable overtones. Giardullo counteracted the generally present deep sounds with a high pitch on his bass clarinet.

Then some of the reeds were switched. McPhee picked up the tenor, Giardullo stayed with his bass clarinet, Bourdellon picked up his bass clarinet and Duval bowed distinguishable notes to set the stage for McPhee's taking the lead on his sax with a slow elegant tune. Giardullo intercepted McPhee's sound with a contrapuntal melody line. Giardullo's pace became half that of Bourdellon's pace which was set in response to McPhee's . McPhee faded out. Giardullo took the lead. Bourdellon rested holding his flute. Duval sped up the bass's sound. The texture was rattled. Duval's bowing became harried, yet, restrained. Bourdellon blended in with Debussy-like phrases that gradually changed into sharper and steadier attacks in his playing. Giardullo then became the foundation for all the instrumental variations by blowing one long low note on his bass clarinet. Everyone then arrived at the same place at the same tempo.

McPhee re-entered on the tenor with a characteristic penetrating high note. This marked a new place for the music to grow from. Duval was fingering on the bass, Bourdellon was playing the flute. McPhee put the pocket cornet to his lips. Giardullo held his soprano sax. McPhee issued out a controlled screech that could have come from a larger instrument. Giardullo plunged into McPhee's sound. They rang together. Duval bowed in parallel with Bourdellon's romantic flute melody. McPhee and Giardullo played discrete smart riffs. Everyone stopped.

After several beats of silence, Giardullo fluttered air through his soprano sax, Duval bowed a beautiful fluid stroke. Bourdellon hovered in the mid-range of his flute. McPhee's high single note led into a yearning melody that beckoned all the instruments to reach the same place, but at different intervals. At that point, each instrument went into its own individual realm. Giardullo stepped out. Duval's bow moved slowly across the strings. Bourdellon took the lead sliding from one pitch to another on the flute. McPhee muted his cornet. Giardullo peeked in and out on his soprano. Duval began to pluck his bass strings. Each instrument worked with and through the others.

McPhee changed to soprano sax and established a melody. Giardullo echoed a beat behind McPhee's tremelos. Duval and Bourdellon, on bass clarinet, bonded in pitch and supported both McPhee and Giardullo who steadily increased the intensity of the numbers, repetitions and the loudness of notes they played. The musical space was immense. The summit of the mountain had been reached; the essential epiphany had been realized.

McPhee stepped out. Giardullo inherited McPhee's high pitch and extended it. His playing was matched by Duval's furious wild fingering on the bass. Bourdellon held his bass clarinet as he watched & listened to the others. The sound cackled before it began to decrease in pace. Giardullo repeated a group of short, abrupt notes. Bourdellon acted like he was playing all the music. With Duval out, both Giardullo and Bourdellon on bass clarinets clicked out sound like they were sucking in the reeds of their horns instead of vibrating them by blowing through them.

At this juncture, McPhee evoked a sweet longing feeling on his soprano. Giardullo was out. Duval's bass provided a fullness that rounded out the music; Bourdellon carefully molded his tune around McPhee's. Giardullo jumped in with his bass clarinet to scare the calm. McPhee snagged the scare and developed it with multiple arpeggios. Giardullo pierced the atmosphere inviting a conversation with Bourdellon's bass clarinet. Duval plucked and fingered the bass strings.

The audience followed the musicians as they made the trek home. McPhee's didjeridu replaced his soprano. Giardullo picked up his flute. Duval began to bow the bass. Bourdellon walked around playing low deep tones on his bass clarinet. The beginning combination of instruments once again appeared. A meditative calm penetrated the hall. The didjeridu vibrated in a circular motion with low pitches; Duval bowed along with McPhee. Duval's fingers tripped over the strings. Giardullo offered out a whistle and a quick quadruple doodly-doo on his flute. Bourdellon played the original melody on his shakuhachi. The musical door was closed on the set.

The second set started with Duval soloing on his bass. He requested that the lights be brought down. He shifted a knobbed stick up and down the neck of the bass to modify the tension of the strings. His playing emphasized an impersonal/objective almost mechanical connection with his instrument. He used the fingers of both hands to pluck the strings; then he grabbed at rhythmic patterns with both the bow and his fingers. He stamped his foot a couple of times and began to bow so fast that it illusionistically disappeared. His fingers slid up and down the strings until they finally came to center near the fret when he returned to creating a rhythmic pattern. He began to strike out at the strings altering the mode quickly into a more delicate double fingering which altered again into a more agitated strumming of the strings as if they were on a guitar. A straight-ahead rhythmic pattern again took over; he tickled the strings until each individual finger closed to the next and one four-finger stroke ended the piece.

McPhee and Duval rendered an indescribably beautiful duo performance of James Weldon Johnson's National Negro Hymn, "Lift Every Voice and Sing". McPhee's tenor sounded out a strong committed statement of the hymn. Duval accompanied without reservation and then formed the bridge from one tenor improvisation to the next. There was a huge crescendo on the sax that culminated in an extremely high pitch. The melody of the hymn re-entered and progressed to the low register in a slow mindful manner to close.

The last piece of this concert included Luciano Pagliarini on alto saxophone. He acted as the tap root from which the branches of the musical tree received their food. Centered in the group of musicians, Pagliarini mapped out a strong melody which triggered high offshoots from the soprano saxes on the left side and low offshoots from the bass clarinet on the right side. After the point at which all of the instruments (the physical placement of the players did not change from that of the first set) blended together, the remaining music became that in which all of the instruments in their own way balanced each other's sound. Rhythmic and non-rhythmic content were interweaving to build the musical structure. Pagliarini was continually the ground off which the other instruments played. At one point, Bourdellon began to blow notes with his bass clarinet that imitated the sound of a giant walking through the woods. To counteract Bourdellon's single low notes, McPhee maintained an incredibly high continuous pitch on an electronic sax. While Pagliarini tongued his alto, Giardullo made a quick statement with his soprano sax and then picked up his flute. Bourdellon switched to the piccolo to match McPhee's sax. There was a point where all the instruments merged; the bass was being plucked and behaving as a fulcrum for the balance of the reeds on each side . Two piccolos now repeated one phrase continuously. McPhee and Pagliarini imitated each other. There was a whine from the alto. The saxes stepped out. Bourdellon placed mid-tones in the musical space. Duval bowed more and more distinct notes. Each instrument was talking to another. The flutes provided an undertone to McPhee' s high-pitched re-entry on electronic sax. The alto pulled the tuneful flutes and the sax together. The bass uttered longing blue notes. The group had reached yet another perfect sound balance.

There is nothing more that I can write. God bless us all, every one.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: J Band
  • Concert Date: 3/31/2000
  • Venue: Rhinebeck Performing Arts Center
  • City State Country: Rhinebeck, NY, USA
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