What a nice bunch of nice guys. (I wrote that while waiting for the concert to begin.) It had come near the end of our yearly recording cycle and, as rewarding as the final results of each CIMP release are (and they are), it’s still a lot of work for all involved. For me there’s always a fair amount of apprehension until a recording is successfully concluded. And while nice guys do not guarantee great music, it does make it easier to achieve. The fact that this is John Gunther’s (1966, Denver, CO) fourth CIMP project does at least lessen my apprehension and, instead, I zero in (obsess, if you wish) on how this effort will distinguish itself from John’s past efforts.
John introduced himself to CIMP listeners on CIMP 136 with the trio of Jay Rosen (1961, Philadelphia, PA) and Leo Huppert (1959, Baltimore, MD). The keystone to that January 1997 recording: notable compositions. We followed this up with a September ’97 recording (CIMP 163) with the same trio plus Ron Miles’ (1963, Indianapolis, IN) trumpet. The keystone: notable compositions further developed. Then, in June 1998, John followed that up by adding Ron Thomas’ (1954, Portland, OR) violin to the same quartet. The keystone for that release (CIMP 176): notable compositions further developed and expanded into long forms. Preliminary reports on the compositions John had been developing over the previous 27 months leading up to this date were encouraging, from John (to be expected), and from Jay (whose objectivity was less suspect).
The Quintet moved upstate after a night at the Knitting Factory (NYC) followed by a night at the Bop Shop (Rochester, NY) and arrived the following afternoon in Rossie, NY, encouraged and in good spirits. Dinner followed sound checks and by 7 p.m., the distinctive Gunther compositional style was filling The Spirit Room. Marvel at the instrumental execution but also at the compositional execution. John’s work draws on the world’s music: West African to West Indian, Eastern European, and North American and makes a synthesis which is clearly American music; viva those traditions!
The music is also very much in John’s conceptual tradition as exhibited over his previous 3 CIMPs. It is those other works that one should reference to fully understand and enjoy the continuum of his work. On this concert, the group abandoned the long, uninterrupted forms displayed on the last release. This time John used individual interludes to maintain the transitory feel of a larger work while expanding into broader references of various genres.
So full and so broad was the music over those two days that it was obvious even before it ended that a number of ideas and excellent readings would not fit on the release, or for that matter, really fit neatly into a single focus. The result: a musical fabric of many colors displayed through a creative improvised music point of view.
Robert D. Rusch – 9/7/00