A jazz-identified musician who, for this release at least, is working in the classical realm, Jones is an excellent alto saxophonist, but also a consistently interesting composer, so this move to fully notated music for an a cappella quartet of female singers is hardly too big a hurdle for him to clear. The degree to which I loved this on first hearing, however, surprised me; this isn't just interesting, it's downright masterful.
This is the fourth volume in Jones's Man'ish Boy series, which I have never really understood the finer points of. That this one's sung doesn't help, because the 'words' are in an invented language of short syllables; the press release says it's a song cycle for a sacred alien birthing ritual.The closest musical analogies I hear, and not consistently at that, are the way Morton Feldman worked with not-quite-repetitive patterns to create kaleidoscopic sound-objects, and the Gyorgy Ligeti-esque frequent deployment of rich tone clusters. And, for that matter, Jones's adept placement of particular vowels on long notes also recalls some Feldman works. That said, you'd never confuse a Jones piece with anything by either Feldman or Ligeti; Jones's music is far more restless and kinetic.
Beyond the piquant harmonies, rhythm/tempo contrasts, and angular melodies that give the music so much of its character, the singers use some drastically inflected timbres and intonations to adjust mood. The effect is absolutely striking, full of variety over its 52 minutes yet absolutely coherent. I hope the future brings more from him in this mode.
This album is officially released on October 14, but I'm reviewing it now to alert you all that The Oversoul Manual will be performed at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall this coming Friday, October 3. - Steve Holtje
Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based composer, poet, and editor who recently composed and recorded the soundtrack for director Enrico Cullen's film A Man Full of Days.