The only time I met and spoke with Cecil Taylor was in 2003 in the basement of Tonic, the much-beloved and long-gone Lower East Side venue, where he, Sunny Murray, Andrey Henkin and myself were sitting in one of those old wooden wine-cask cabanas they had. Murray’s group was playing there that evening and Cecil had come out to see the band. I remember Cecil whispering a query in my ear: “Mr. Allen, who is your favorite architect?” At that point I was not a follower of architecture but having recently finished graduate work on the visual artist and architect Donald Judd, I offered his name in response. It made sense, especially given that architecture in its purest form shapes our interactions with light and space as much of Judd’s art does. And by that time I was also aware that improvising musicians do not operate in a vacuum — they engage with a wide array of art forms in the building of their worlds, from painting to architecture, dance to literature and sculpture, whether we are talking about the Harlem Renaissance or May of 1968.
Simply put, the music made by Guillermo Gregorio, bassist Damon Smith, and drummer Jerome Bryerton is that of artists. Gregorio (b. 1941, Buenos Aires) is a polymath, having worked in sonic situations with Fluxus-adjacent Argentine musicians and composers in the mid-1960s and beyond. Gregorio’s subsequent and recent improvisational world touches on the art and architecture of Constructivism, in which abstract units relate to one another in a spatial-temporal dynamic, potentialities commingling with situational gravity. Smith (b. 1972, Spokane) is deeply committed to postwar abstract art from a variety of perspectives, all linked by committed intensity, and has augmented his bass with a bevy of objects and preparations that display the influence of European improvisers like Barry Guy or Joëlle Léandre as well as Fluxus composer Ben Patterson. Bryerton (b. 1974, Chicago) is a percussionist and painter whose canvases show the influence of Cy Twombly or Gerhard Richter and the tear-away collages of paper, ink, and glue that one sees on decommissioned billboards. On The Cold Arrow, their second trio disc to date, the musicians are constantly poised at the moment where thought becomes action, space becomes material, and improvisation becomes composition. There is a high degree of elegance and a ton of physical heft; these approaches (and the degrees between) create an experiential play, a dynamism much like the tension exhibited between the shape of stretched canvas and the image/object occupying that canvas, or the daily use of a complex built structure. Instead of delving into the particularities of the two Gregorio precomposed works here, or the handful of group improvisations, focusing on the “balance point” between tendencies is what feels right. At the end, one might look to painter Agnes Martin, who in a 1997 interview said “I think that art is responded to with emotion and the best art is music, it’s the highest form of art. It’s completely abstract and we…respond to it emotionally.” The arts are that projectile right into the center.
released December 1, 2023
Guillermo Gregorio - Bb & A clarinets
Damon Smith - double bass
Jerome Bryerton - Paiste Bronze Series gongs & selected metal & cymbals, no drums used
Recorded by Ryan Wasoba at Birdcloud Studios in Collinsville, IL on 9/26/22
Mixed & Mastered by Ryan Wasoba
Design by Alan Anzalone
Cover art by Daniel Healey
Liner Notes by Clifford Allen
Group photograph by Jaclyn Gonzalez at Tubby's Kingston, 5/22/22
Coplanar 4 & No. 12x are composition by Guillermo Gregorio All others are free improvisations.