Six Synaptics

Jazz Weekly
November 2002
By Ken Waxman


Six Synaptics/Barely Auditable/Ertla Creations Bar 333/ECC D02

Sooner or later it had to happen: peripatetic woodwind player Scott Rosenberg would have to interact with real-time electronics. Part and parcel of his leave-taking from Chicago to New York, the reedman hooked up with two of the Second City’s plethora of improvisers for this short — about 441/2 minutes — but provocative CD.

The fact that Rosenberg, who has played free jazz with his own quartet, composed hybrid chamber music, duetted with Anthony Braxton and been featured in large ensembles has taken up the challenge facing many 21st Century musicians isn’t surprising as much as who is wielding the keyboard, dials and wires. Contemporary classical musician Kyle Bruckmann, who manipulates the minimoog and live processing here, is better known as an oboist. In that capacity he has worked with the likes of cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and multi-keyboardist Jim Baker, with Austrian microtonalists Polwechsel, and performed works by John Cage, George Crumb and Salvatore Sciarrino as part of the Ensemble Noamnesia. Perhaps because the circuit board isn’t his main axe, he brings a singular conception and discerning execution to his contributions here.Third man on board is veteran percussionist Michael Zerang, who since the late 1970s has participated in more off-the wall Chicago sounds than anyone. His playing partners have ranged from fellow percussionist Hamid Drake and Lonberg-Holm to saxophonists John Butcher, Ken Vandermark and Fred Anderson. No narrow drumhead, he has also won awards for his compositions for theatre and dance productions.

Many times, in fact, it’s Zerang on hand percussion or echoing cymbals who sets the scene for these collaborations that are then advanced and shaped by Rosenberg on some combination of sopranino, alto or tenor saxophones, contrabass clarinet or flute plus Bruckmann’s implements.

On “Shards (Strewn)” for instance, the distinctive flick of sticks onto a drum head is quickly joined by gritty flute wheezes and crinkling static and whistles from the moog. The percussionist continues pumping out jagged rhythms as the synthesizer first produces calliope-type sounds than what appears to be the cry of a maddened bull. Tongue slaps and screams from inside one of the saxophones rouses the minimoog to elephant trumpeting which are then met by reed kisses. Eventually the sound field is split between whirling electronic drones and split-second flute spits. Unselected cymbals take centrestage and continue in the aural spotlight on “Moonling,” with Zerang’s reverberating brass orbs supplying the mallet-driven rhythm. Ringing bells in the midst of a slowly intensifying electronic buzz, and later beating his toms, Zerang’s sounds encourage Rosenberg to unleash a juggernaut of Energy Music from his saxes, using his mouthpiece alone to yelp like a puppy and squeak like a mouse, while exploding into a spray of multiphonics.

Zerang’s percussion comments on the proceedings take the form of random clicks and rim clinks on “Sparks: Spewn.” Here also the live processing legerdemain asserts itself. After clearing the field with plunger tones, Bruckmann takes Rosenberg’s rolling split tone chirps and speedy flurries of nasal squeaks to double and triple the hullabaloo, having the machine’s echoing resonance create new human-sounding notes and tones.

Avoiding the excesses of so-called free jazz, New music and overbearing electronica, the three also manage to strengthen the humanity of their presentation despite the minimoog and processing. It takes a flesh-and-blood person to program and manipulates these manufactured beasts, after all. Bruckmann especially makes sure that the sound doesn’t become excessively mechanical and vapid.

As the reedist’s swan song to the Windy City, Six Synaptics leaves plenty of sounds around to be further explored by him and his Chi Town cohorts who remain there.

Track Listing:
1. Gristle-Glisten
2. Knistern; Prasseln
3. Hrönir
4. Sparks: Spewn
5. Shards (Strewn)
6. Moonling

Scott Rosenberg, sopranino, alto and tenor saxophones, contrabass clarinet, flute
Kyle Bruckmann, minimoog, live processing
Michael Zerang, multiple percussion