KLANG: Other Doors
Allos Documents 006
James Falzone: clarinet
Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone
Jason Roebke: bass
Tim Daisy: drums
Jeb Bishop: trombone
Josh Berman: cornet
Keefe Jackson: tenor saxophone & bass clarinet
Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello and electronics
James Falzone doesn’t have Benny Goodman’s photo on his practice room wall. And he’s not going to pore over a 1930’s–1940’s lexicon. While he had a fun time playing in a swing revival band during the 1990s, he doesn’t need to repeat those riffs ever again. Nostalgia doesn’t enter his mind, whether it’s for a time seven decades ago, or last Wednesday. The same is most likely true for everyone in his group, KLANG, as well as the guest artists on this record.
All of which makes Falzone, and his cohorts, a perfect fit to interpret the King Of Swing’s music alongside his own compositions on Other Doors. He knows that for jazz to continue as a living, breathing art, the essentials must be the same now as they were in Goodman’s time: having a wide palette of resourceful musical ideas and the imagination to make those ideas work together in new ways; and putting together a team of musicians who can respond to quick-thinking changes with complementary thoughts of their own.
This project began when Neil Tesser, representing the board of the Jazz Institute of Chicago, approached Falzone about performing a Goodman tribute at the 2009 Chicago Jazz Festival. It was the 100-year anniversary of Goodman’s birth, and he was a native of the city’s West Side. While Falzone respected Goodman, his legacy, this particular celebration and the festival itself, he initially thought he was the wrong man for the job. While he did have that gig playing retro-swing dances 14 years earlier, Falzone had since studied modern classical composition at the New England Conservatory, become an important part of Chicago’s renowned free-improv scene and investigated many forms of ethnic music traditions.
But the more he listened to Goodman’s music and thought about his life, the more fascinated he became. Falzone saw that Goodman’s insistence on hiring the best musicians regardless of their race and fighting for their equitable treatment was an early step towards the civil rights movement, commemorated through this disc’s title track recalling an incident in the South during the late 1930′s when Goodman defied segregation and demanded that all the members of his integrated band be allowed to use the same door to enter the venue.
Falzone also discovered that Goodman’s community of musicians was very much like present-day Chicago. “Like he and his co-conspirators, (Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Charlie Christian), we have a community of players in Chicago at the present who are spurring each other on to new creativity both on record and in real-time on the stage. The core members of KLANG (Daisy, Roebke, Adasiewicz) and the guest artist I brought in (Berman, Lonberg-Holm, Bishop, Jackson) are, in my opinion, some of the finest musicians working in jazz and improvised music today, each with a strong and unique voice and their contributions to this record are vital. I set up the arrangements and created new compositions to allow everyone space to be themselves so that you’d hear some of the same spirit as in those classic Goodman small-group recordings I love so much where personality is as important as notes.”
Falzone’s links to Goodman shine throughout the disc: primarily an unquestionable virtuosity on the clarinet, along with a sense of fun to make octave leaps sound not just easy, but joyful. Still, while Goodman led most of his groups through hard driving swing, and others through his commissioning of modern classical compositions, Falzone makes these turns through one group—KLANG—and often during a single tune. Yet, he approaches it all through the kind of minimalism that takes its time to be felt. Except for when he just lets the players in KLANG uproariously duel among themselves. Something Goodman wouldn't have done, but should have.
What winds up being created from throwing all of this together is Falzone and KLANG’s vision of their current environment. “I’m not trying to pay homage to Goodman nor am I attempting to somehow update his great body of work” Falzone said. “I have no interest in sounding like Benny Goodman and yet I have every interest in emulating what Goodman did in terms of being present in his moment. The greatest thing I can do to pay respect to a jazz musician of the past is to be a jazz musician of the present.”
Associate Editor, DownBeat
December 2010, Chicago
4 Stars - DownBeat Magazine, June 2011
"Despite a lineup that includes clarinet and vibes, Klang was not an obvious choice to pay tribute to Goodman. While the quartet's leader, clarinetist James Falzone, is, like Goodman, well steeped in both swing and classical music, his allegiance lies more with Jimmy Giuffre and the music of Brittany and the Middle East. But that distance is part of what makes this album stand apart from the repertory exhumations that clog the jazz bins in those few stores that still carry jazz records. There's no musty stench of antiquity about these performances. While they honor much that Goodman stood for—"AC/DC Current," for example, is full of joy and swings like mad, and the musicianship on "Stompin' At The Savoy" is of the highest level—they don't forget who they are or where they come from. Their shared history in groups like Vox Arcana, Engines, and the Valentine Trio is as much an inspiration as Goodman's tunes for the masterful mixing of tight ensemble playing, free improvising and exploratory atmospherics found on Other Doors." ~ Bill Meyer, DownBeat
"So unmistakably right, a genuine understanding of the Ur-material projected into the present. Subtle thing. Not easy to convey. Immensely impressive . . . this is music driven along by Falzone’s remarkable, capacious imagination and grasp of group dynamics. The municipal hype delivers big on Other Doors. KLANG made a remarkable start with last year’s Tea Music. This consolidates the debut, adds a layer, and does thoughtful honor to Benny and Hamp and Charlie and Gene, which is no small feat." ~ Brian Morton, Point of Departure
"Throughout the 15-track session, quartet members and their guests gleefully experiment with counter melodies and conflicting tempos to expand the scope of their - and their listeners' - musical horizons. From the title track's chamber-music air to what might be called "space-age avant-swing" on works such as "The 4:08," KLANG delivers unexpected delights." ~ Mark Holston, Jazziz
"By interpreting hallowed material from a personal viewpoint, rather than mere repertoire, Other Doors embraces the same longstanding concepts jazz musicians have endeavored to explore throughout the decades. Blending new pieces with startling arrangements of old standards, the record provides a fresh look at the legacy of a respected icon. Throughout the date, Falzone and company bring a kaleidoscopic array of moods to Goodman's work . . . Despite his enthusiastic delivery, Falzone never merely imitates Goodman's jubilance; his robust, woody tone and bold phrasing skirt the edges of conventional harmony without drifting beyond the boundaries of tonality. Supported by the lively contributions of his sideman Other Doors easily sidesteps the nostalgic clichés that plague many similar homage's by bringing a freewheeling and modernistic vitality to the enduring work of a celebrated innovator."
~Troy Collins, All About Jazz
"It all clicks amazingly here, with swing, chamber and free-jazz meshing together, sometimes in the same piece, creating a unique presentation of historical continuum. Falzone's playing is rich and elegant but never conservative, and his arrangements bear the same qualities. The contributions by the guests are very valuable as they expand the sound palette and provide some nice soloing. The chemistry of this group is what really makes it all click - excellent job creating the sense of unity in the diversity is what makes this album such a success really . . . with an abvious nod to a history, this project is not a history lesson. Highly Recommended. ~ The Jazz Alchemist, Poland
"When the Chicago Jazz Festival asked James Falzone to pay homage to Benny Goodman in 2009, the centennial of his birth, the local clarinetist wasn't known as a practitioner of the buoyant swing that Goodman turned into some of the most popular music in 1930s America. Falzone is always game for a challenge, though—he'd already interpreted Messiaen as well as traditional French and Arabic music—and he created relatively faithful arrangements of Goodman classics for his quartet Klang (vibist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Jason Roebke, and drummer Tim Daisy). But when he finally got around to recording the project for the superb new Other Doors, he transformed that swing-era music into something much more personal and contemporary. On "Memories of You" he elongates the melody almost unrecognizably over a funereal tempo, and on "Rose Room" he updates Goodman's intimate small-group aesthetic, particularly in his beautiful pinpoint interactions with Adasiewicz. In the album's liner notes, he writes that one thing he likes about those small-group records is that "personality is as important as notes," and the members of Klang demonstrate similar priorities, especially on Falzone's new compositions for the project." ~ Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
"Clarinetist James Falzone brings the music of Benny Goodman into an entirely new, strange universe with a retro/futuristic mix of reimagined favorites and original tunes. KLANG’s bright, sparkling sound incorporates touches of swing here and there, but they also spend a lot of time floating through mysterious, angular realms." ~ KZSU Radio, Stanford, CA
"The second album by Klang (a creative jazz quartet led by excellent clarinetist/composer James Falzone) is actually a project of jazz tradition redevelopment. Half the tracks were written or popularized by the King of Swing Benny Goodman. Nothing nostalgic or passé here; simply, Falzone is using Goodman’s repertoire as a springboard for his own writing and arranging. Falzone brilliantly succeeds in giving his twist to this swing. The result is a delightful creative jazz record, with intelligent and thoughtful writing."
~ François Couture, Monsieur Délire, Montreal Canada
"With Other Doors, Klang leader and clarinetist James Falzone has documented a body of music he worked on, after being invited to celebrate what would have been Benny Goodman's 100th birthday, at the Chicago Jazz Festival back in 2009. As he's a highly creative individual in his own right, he hasn't gone for any sterile Swing Era reconstruction, instead fashioning a program which makes for rewarding listening even while it doesn't lose sight of its original stimulus . . . To be sure, the ability to do something transformative is a mark of this ensemble, as it proves on Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf's "Memories Of You," which receives one of the most radical readings it's ever received on record . . . the music is so unassumingly persuasive . . . Ultimately both the specific and the general impressions are of something transformed, and the fact that everything in this program works is testament to the substance of the iconoclastic approach." ~Nic Jones, All About Jazz
"The young set of Chicago jazz musicians currently blowing a storm in the Windy City continue to display respect and reverence for the city's musical tradition. Now, clarinetist James Falzone digs back even further with his quartet KLANG's third album, investigating fellow Chicagoan Benny Goodman's 30s/40s legacy. But as you'd suspect from some of the more leftfield jazz musicians currently operating in the US, this is far from a simple run through the reperoire. Falzone's interpretations of standards like "Stompin' at the Savoy" mix jaunty, small-group swing with interludes of abstract improv, with Jason Adasiewicz's vibes adding a dreamy weightlessness. It all adds up to a neat, intelligent and economical little package." ~Daniel Spicer, JazzWise
"An obvious conclusion could be that Falzone is looking back. But, to the contrary, Falzone is absolutely in present time, heading forward to demonstrate how music evolves. It swells, caresses and becomes downright orchestral at times . . . No musician in the quartet misses a solo spot. The music never falters because these instrumentalists are inherently superb."
~ Lynn Horton, JazzTimes
"The way the clarinetist and his bandmates dive headfirst in the "Goodman material" clearly demonstrates the fun they have performing this music—and it is infectious . . . a recording that is alternately stark and breezy."
~ Alain Drouot, Jazz Institute of Chicago's JazzGram
"What makes this disc so wonderful is that it has a perfect balance with one foot in the distant past and the other in the present, some eighty or so years later. KLANG continue to show that Chicago remains one of the most advanced and reverent music scenes in America today."
~ Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
released April 26, 2011
Recorded November 22, 23, 24 and December 1, 2010 at Victorian Recording Studio, Barrington, IL
Engineered by Josh Richter
Produced by James Falzone
Mixed and Edited by James Falzone and Josh Richter
Mastering by Jonathan Horwich of International Phonograph, Inc.
Cover photo by Marion Post Wolcott, 1939, used by permission from The Library of Congress
all rights reserved