Trio S – Somewhere Glimmer [TrackList follows] – Zitherine ZN 002, 35:02 [6/23/17] ****:

Water music, dream music and more from chamber jazz Trio S.

(Doug Wieselman – B-flat and E-flat clarinets, loops, tenor banjo; Jane Scarpantoni – cello; Kenny Wollesen – drums, percussion, Wollesonics)

The most famous music associated with water is probably George Handel’s 17th-century orchestral score, “Water Music.” But the movement of water has stirred many artists, including clarinetist Doug Wieselman (whose resumé includes Laurie Anderson, John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards, and Lou Reed). The flow of streams, creeks, rivers and related bodies of water courses through the 35-minute Somewhere Glimmer, the sophomore release from Wieselman’s Trio S. Wieselman’s eight tunes are inspired by the natural rhythms and melodies created by moving water. Sometimes the material has a trickling quality, other times a brisker pulse analogous to rushing liquid. Wieselman (who uses B-flat and E-flat clarinets, loops and a tenor banjo) is joined by cellist Jane Scarpantoni (also Lounge Lizards, Reed and many more) and drummer and percussionist Kenny Wollesen (yet another alum of John Lurie as well as Bill Frisell), who also utilizes a unique apparatus known as Wollesonics, which has wind-up paraphernalia such as grinders, manual egg beaters and other utensils as percussion instruments. Somewhere Glimmer is available as a CD, vinyl LP and as a digital download. This review refers to the CD version.

The album opens with the shimmering “Sesto,” based on a melody Wieselman heard in the river at Sesto, near Florence, Italy. Wieselman states he overheard a body was once found in the river, so he gave “Sesto” a suitably ghostly or haunted vibe. Wieselman uses a looped melody and improvises on the melody on his E-flat clarinet, whereas Scarpantoni was assigned only a few specific notes and Wollesen was given freedom to create whatever rhythmic and percussive support he wanted to add. Other regional areas influenced some compositions. The spry and faster-paced “New River” was stimulated by a river’s melody which Wieselman heard while driving through southern Vermont. That moist melody is heard as the looped and tiered clarinet lines during the tune’s introduction. Wieselman supplied explicit melodic gestures for the cello and clarinet and again let Wollesen craft appropriate percussive elements. The calming “Piper Hill 3” recreates a melody Wieselman noticed coming from a small stream in Weston, Vermont. The nearly classical composition includes three parts, which provides a suite-like approach to the five-minute cut. Clarinet and cello move together in whole notes around Wieselman’s loops while Wollesen plays a circumscribed rhythm rather than an improvised one.

As can be imagined, some of this gently evolving music can have a dreamlike mannerism, so it is no surprise two tracks were kindled by actual nighttime dreams. The Middle Eastern-tinged “Dreambox” is from a dream Wieselman experienced that had a ritual involving a kind of small sandbox with various sacred items. Wieselman explains he heard a sound reminiscent of Moroccan music while he was dreaming, and that exotic characteristic formed the foundation for this piece. “Dreambox” commences with a lingering, low impetus and gradually builds up to a wild clamor by the conclusion. The longest track, the 5:32 “Metal in Wood” was sparked by Wieselman’s dream about a gathering at music producer Hal Willner’s house where Allen Ginsberg was one of the guests. A strange wooden object appeared which Ginsburg said was from Tibet and there was a metal fragment missing from this object which the guests must find and put into the object at a set time. Wieselman wrote down his dream-song as soon as he woke up and that became the basis for “Metal in Wood.” The arrangement starts with an eerie impression highlighted by Wieselman’s wind-toned and loop-layered clarinets, Scarpantoni’s ambient-hued cello and Wollesen’s washed percussive effects. Just past the three-minute mark, the scope shifts as all three align on a moving and driving theme which has a bit of a rock or pop disposition.

The threesome generates a folk-like slant on two tunes where Wieselman switches to tenor banjo. There is a mountain-music tint during “That Way,” where Scarpantoni takes the melodic lead and Wieselman accompanies on banjo, while Wollesen fashions lithe, sliding percussion noises. The shortest number is “Hallucination of a Storm,” which is suggestive of a jig and is fronted by banjo. Scarpantoni plays a specific collection of notes while the drums roll in and out with a roiling rhythm akin to an imminent storm. Trio S end with “Birdbath,” which has a lightly whirling attribute based on a bird’s song which the clarinet plays while a loop echoes another part of the bird song. Scarpantoni has an interesting contribution as she performs both a rhythmic portion and a more open part with defined notes. Meanwhile, Wollesen overdubs his Wollesonic percussive components, which were the only overdubs on the record.

The music on Somewhere Glimmer has a quiet, organic demeanor and a chamber trio inclination. Wieselman chose to tape on Pro Tools and do a pre-mix at home and then the album was mixed professionally at Brooklyn’s Figure 8 studios on vintage analog equipment including a Neve board and tube outboard gear. The result is music with a warm tone and a very high resolution, perfectly suited to vinyl, although not much is lost in the digital playback on CD or download files.

New River
That Way
Piper Hill 3
Metal in Wood
Hallucination of a Storm

—Doug Simpson