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Graduation by Graduation Trio

This short, evidently untitled album by the Graduation Trio features just two lengthy tracks (each is about 20 minutes). This format is typical of the free, avant garde, collective, electro-acoustic, improvised music category to which this album belongs. This is highbrow stuff: it requires an appreciation for the avant and a dedicated listener, it's music that refuses to be the background music that jazz often sadly becomes.

The music on this album was captured live in Brooklyn in May, 2003. It's a challenging recording assignment, not only because of the sonic variety produced by the musicians, but also because of the importance to the composition of the time and space in which it was produced. These two tracks hold up fairly well removed from their original performance context, which is a credit to the clarity of the recording (where murkiness prevails it seems to have been the intention of the musicians). There is one moment on the first track where the CD hiccups, it may or may not be duplicated on all copies, in more structured CDs it would spoil the whole track, but for this type of music it's a less damaging fault.

One of the strengths of this album is that it builds slowly, allowing you to buy into what the musicians are doing gradually, without taking an agonizing time getting to the point. The first track, "-stock" begins briskly with some of what sounds, at times, an awful lot like an electric guitar (although one can never be too sure of the origin of much of the sounds) which provides, if not a melodic base, at least a sort of central voice to take center stage. At times, the music threatens to develop into a sort of Tom Waits-ish broken-robots-marching groove, but the musicians here take pains to avoid it; that they manage to prevent any regularity without interrupting the forward progress of the music makes for great tension. This tension is helped by a strong dedication to build and release, instead of a commitment to complete obliteration which can, in other examples of this genre, be both exhausting and maddening.

The second track, "-custom" features no melodic content whatsoever, but is full of drama nonetheless. This track, which features mostly electronically generated noises, is reminiscent of channel surfing a television with no reception on psychotropics: it's fascinating in a way that only the person experiencing it can understand. This track evokes a strikingly cinematic in a David Lynch kind of way world of machine noises. It's full of lush statics and primitive computer sounds (remember that sound dialup modems make?) with an evident compositional element underlying the interactions between the various soundscapes. It all amounts to an exploration the meaning, to humans, of sounds which were intended to have no meaning to humans (but which, curiously, we constantly subject ourselves to), asking perhaps the question "If a modem dials in the auditorium and someone is there to hear it, what the hell?"

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Graduation Trio
  • CD Title: Graduation
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: free103point9
  • Tracks: Side A: GRADUATION -stock, SIDE B: GRADUATION -custom
  • Musicians: Nels Cline, Chris Corsano, Carlos Giffoni
  • Rating: Four Stars
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