Last week the Stone hosted yet another week-long residency that I was really excited to see: Jeremiah Cymerman. I’d never seen him do anything but improvisation sets before this week, so I was very interested to hear some material from his studio recordings and some of the bands he’s put together over the years as well as, of course, more improvisation.
I went to half a dozen sets during the week – solo; Sky Burial; improv benefit for the Stone; improv set with Joe Morris and Sylvie Courvoisier; Pale Horse; and Pale Horse with guests. The solo set was the first one of the week and it turned to be one of my favorites. I wasn’t surprised since I thought his last solo album, Purification/Dissolution, was pretty darn brilliant. You can listen to some by clicking here. (The embed isn’t working, so you’ll have to click through… I know, I know, clicking that mouse button is arduous work.)
It’s not necessarily what you think of when you think “solo clarinet,” and it’s not for everyone, but I think he has a real talent for noise music. I don’t listen to a lot of noise – it’s one of those things I have to be exactly in a certain mood for – but when I am in that mood and I hear something just right, it can be one of the most ecstatic types of music listening. I think of it as musical masochism – noise music lets you float right on the edge of pleasure and pain, pushing you right to the limits of enjoyment. When the composer or musician in question can walk that line perfectly, the listener can have sufficient trust to sit back and fully take it in without being tensed up with a finger on the “off” button in case it goes too far.
It hardly needs saying that it falls in the “not for everyone” category, but for me, Mr. Cymerman is a top practitioner in this particular art form. The first, long piece in his solo set (taking up most of the time he’d allotted) was a prime example – a briliant-bordering-on-genius set of clarinet filtered through enough electronics and effects to make it nearly unrecognizable as an instrument. It was a real education watching him make this music after having heard his albums and having no idea how the music was being made. The complex textures and sounds he was coming up with on the fly were powerful and masterfully done.
Another highlight for me were Friday’s shows, particularly the Cymerman/Morris/Courvoisier and the Cymerman/Hoffman/Courvoisier sets. I’m a big fan of Sylvie Courvoisier’s improvising anyway, so seeing them together with a couple of other excellent musicians was bound to be a hit with me. Just some really solid improv with a couple of stellar trios – it’s hard to ask for better than that on any given Friday night, as far as I’m concerned.
The final night I went to was Pale Horse – they released an album earlier this year featuring Cymerman, Brian Chase on drums and Christopher Hoffman on cello. The early set featured that trio, and the late set added on two electric guitarists: Andrew Hock of Psalm Zero and Matt Hollenberg of Cleric. Having seen Cleric before I was a little wary about this one, not really understanding how that kind of music could fit into a project like Pale Horse. But I wasn’t giving them enough credit – this set was one of the best of the week. The guitarists both showed an excellent sense of restraint and tailored the playing perfectly to the music at hand. I had one of my “sitting too close” seats right by Matt Hollenberg:
I really, really loved that set, I think it’s the first time that quintet played together but I left wishing they would go and record an album the next day. What more can you say?
It’s a bit off-topic for this concert(s) review, but I’d be remiss if I wrote up an article on Jeremiah Cymerman’s work without mentioning his awesome podcast (click here to check it out). It’s a series of in-depth interviews with all kinds of interesting musicians. I haven’t listened to anywhere near all of them, but the ones I’ve listened to have all been both entertaining and educational. If you’re into the NYC downtown scene at all, you’ll find a lot to listen to – but there are quite a few interviews of non-NYC artists as well. Check it out, subscribe, buy a T-shirt, buy an album, etc. etc.
If you’d like to check out some of Mr. Cymerman’s upcoming live performances – and I think you do! – click here for dates and times.