By Mel Minter
Mark Weber 6 Times around the Sun (Zerx Records)
On 6 Times around the Sun, hubkaphonist Mark Weber presents an abundant collection of strange and wonderful music, teaming up with nine adventurous musicians on 38 improvised duet tracks recorded over six years.
A percussive instrument invented by saxophonist/flautist Henry Threadgill, the hubkaphone is a marimba-like instrument that, instead of wooden blocks, uses hubcaps from various automobile makes, models and years, suspended in a wooden frame and struck with mallets. The instrument sounds like a cross between a giant mbira, an Asian bell and cymbals.
On this recording, Weber used six metal hubcaps picked up from the side of the road in various places. Another, made of plastic, is suspended separately. He selects these discs based on their sonic properties, tending to favor a round sound. (The plastic one makes a useful and distinctive thud, perfect for punctuation).
Weber’s collaborators represent a variety of genres, from jazz to experimental to classical to R & B. With nowhere to hide, they accept their nakedness with aplomb, delivering everything from spare musical haiku that continues to resonate long after the track has ended, to dense explorations that overwhelm the earways. On one track, Alicia Ultan creates an entire world in seconds with spare visceral scratchings across her viola’s strings. On another, uniflutist and sampling wizard J.A. “Dino” Deane explodes a galaxy in an eight-minute sound storm. Pianist Kazzrie Jaxen constructs elaborate and compelling instant jazz compositions. Saxophonist JB Bryan offers up laconic blues of beguiling, almost Zen-like simplicity. Vocalist Patti Littlefield wordlessly plumbs uneasy emotional territory. Also joining Weber are flutist Lisa Polisar, clarinetists Beth Custer and Bill Payne, and saxophonist Lorenzo Sanguedolce.
The recording sessions typically lasted about 90 minutes, and Weber’s only direction to his collaborators was to aim for brevity and to play pointillistically, à la the compositions of German composer Stefan Wolpe. For his part, Weber manages a delicate balancing act, sometimes leading, sometimes following, establishing patterns and disrupting them. Occasionally, as on Track 4 with Bryan, he seems to be translating his collaborator’s utterances into a different language, as though interpreting for an audience from another musical world.
You won’t find this CD at your local storefront or your online purveyor. Go to zerxpress.blogspot.com and proceed to the “Zerx Ordering Info” page for instructions. Extensive liner notes and a few sample tracks can be can be found at bit.ly/alibizerx.
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