Music Reviews from the Staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House


January 26, 2019
Two Lovely Duets Released in January, 2019
The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House call attention to two extraordinary duets released this month: The Air Around Her by Ellen Fullman & Okkyung Lee and Voyage and Homecoming by George Lewis & Roscoe Mitchell.


The Air Around Her - Ellen Fullman & Okkyung Lee
Label: 1703 Skivbolaget
Catalog #: 1703-3
Country: Sweden
Release Date: January 16, 2019 (lp)
Media: lp, cd & digital entry

On The Air Around Her, the listener is treated to two tracks (side A & side B) of a performance featuring Ellen Fullman on her unique long-stringed instrument and Okkyung Lee on cello. We anticipated that this duo would create a collaborative music incorporating the polyphonic drones and songs of Fullman's instrument and the drones of Lee's cello in ways that allowed the two musicians to accentuate each other and lead to a music greater than the sum of the individual parts. We were not disappointed. The music is lovely and peaceful, but it is also dynamic. Because of the responses of each musician to the other, there is no tendency for the active listener to lose connection to the music and drift off, as could be imagined with extended pieces. To the contrary, we found each side (roughly twenty minutes apiece) to be over too soon. This was the first release we heard from the Swedish label, 1703 Skivbolaget, and it was a grand introduction indeed!

We were first drawn to Fullman's work when we heard Body Music (Experimental Intermedia Foundation, 1993). Our familiarity with the music of Okkyung Lee was much more limited and confined to appearances in the ensembles of figures such as Evan Parker and Michael Gira. On The Air Around Her, it was a delight to hear Lee give full expression to her instrument in the company of Fullman.

As a final comment, we note that we had earlier reviewed the long-stringed instrument & cello duet performance of Ellen Fullman and Theresa Wong at the nief-norf festival held at the University of Tennessee in June, 2017. It was very interesting and appealing to us to find that the change of cellist altered the nature of the music to a great degree, which is, of course, just as it should be.


Voyage and Homecoming - George Lewis & Roscoe Mitchell
Label: RogueArt
Catalog #: ROG-0086
Country: France
Release Date: January, 2019
Media: cd entry

The shared history of George Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell goes back several decades to the early days of the AACM. There is documentation of their partnership as far back as 1975 on the Roscoe Mitchell Quartet Sackville Recordings, 2002) with Muhal Richard Abrams and Spencer Barefield. While their collaborations have not dominated the discography of either musician, one highlight from Lewis discography is Voyager (Avant, 1993), in which both Lewis and Mitchell play with Voyager, an interactive software for non-idiomatic improvisation created by Lewis.

In recent years, Mitchell's productivity as composer and performer has, if anything increased both in volume and in public recognition. Lewis also continues to make music in addition to having written the history of AACM, A Power Stronger than Itself (University of Chicago Press, 2008). Voyage and Homecoming serves as a musical chapter in this history, reuniting Mitchell and Lewis with Voyager.

The signature of the early Voyager music was its electronic sound and its discordant and arrhythmic responses. It seems, the software has undergone some evolutions since the early 1990's. On one twenty-five minute track of Voyage and Homecoming, the software manipulates a piano, resulting in a response that is much more tempered and musical. Mitchell performance on saxophone is immediately recognizable.

On the other two tracks, Mitchell and Lewis perform without Voyager, with Lewis on electronics first then trombone. Lewis' trombone blurps and groans and hiccups. The comfort of Mitchell and Lewis with each other in making an unordinary music is evident through-out the recording.



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