James Falzone’s music is heavily improvised but hardly accidental: each of his projects is reasoned, built from a defined challenge or concept, rarely music purely for its own sake.
His most jazz-forward project, KLANG, arose somewhat by chance in early 2006, but offered him an opportunity to reinterpret the language of pre-1960 clarinet jazzmen. The group’s first studio release, Tea Music, explored impressions left by Jimmy Giuffre (Falzone says his influence here was the 1950s groups, but to my ear his phrasings fall more in line with Giuffre’s ‘60s innovations on Free Fall), and the follow-up, Other Doors, brought new life to the works and spirit of Benny Goodman.
KLANG’s latest release, 2012’s Brooklyn Lines. . .Chicago Spaces, however, abandons a clear starting point. Its music and title suggest an abstract geometry, Falzone and Jason Adasiewicz’s lines at times parallel but more often bent in an elaborate harmonic dance, not touching but subtly provoking each other to the brisk rhythmic push of Jason Roebke and Tim Daisy. Most of it isn’t swinging in a traditional sense, but propulsive: the ringing, metallic sustain of Adasiewicz’s vibe hits wax a smooth, if somewhat hypnotic runway for Falzone’s prodigiously crisp solos, while Roebke and Daisy lock in a more boppish manner, giving the compositions a more muscular stride. The tight rhythm section reigns in the expansive melodic cloud hovering overhead, leaving a sound that is at once compact and infinite.
As the album and song titles suggest, Brooklyn Lines. . .Chicago Spaces is, in part, an homage to Falzone’s Chicago. References to The Hungry Brain and esteemed local jazz writer Larry Kart stand out, as well as a composition simply called “Ukrainian Village,” Falzone’s neighborhood for several years, and the home of Bar DeVille, which will host KLANG in residence each Tuesday night during the month of January.
The group’s residency isn’t the standard one-group workshop. Instead, they’re drawing new Chicago lines, starting with KLANG and working out into solo performances and smaller groupings with invited Chicago improvisers. For the inaugural night, two KLANG sets bookend a solo set from their drummer, Tim Daisy, while subsequent weeks will feature guest collaborations with cellist Tomeka Reid, trumpeter Russ Johnson, bass clarinetist Jason Stein and saxophonist Dave Rempis. So feel free to drop by just once, or over and over.
Photo of KLANG by David Sampson.