J.D. Parran / Mark Deutsch

Omegathorp: Living City

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Omegathorp: Living City is an album fueled by good intentions, but it has its share of shortcomings. Recorded live in September 2002, it features one long composition each by reedsman J.D. Parran and sitar player Mark Deutsch, plus one group improvisation. The two composers have selected an impressive cast of musicians: cellist David Darling, pianist Joseph Kubera and drummer Kevin Norton. Thomas Buckner commissioned Parran's piece and thus sings it in his unmistakable avant-opera palette. Omegathorp: Living City is a 35-minute work in four movements based on poems by the late Glenn Spearman. Parran did a fine job composing flexible settings and warm melodies, but his overall jazzy writing and Buckner's operatic rendition of the poem tend to clash rather than fuse. Still, there are moments of stunning beauty (in "Breath Textures," particularly) and inspired soloing. On the other hand, sound quality limitations hinder the listening pleasure. First, instead of segueing into one another, the movements are brutally separated by two-second gaps of silence, something that kills the transition between "Explore Coming Forth" and "Breath Textures." Second, in "Done Woman," which could have been the set's highlight, recording levels hit the red zone, resulting in an unacceptable amount of distortion. Deutsch's 24-minute "Kwama Okura" is better recorded and provides unmarred pleasure, with plenty of great musicianship over elegant developments of simple base materials. The closing "Improvisation" is average, the beautiful last three minutes managing to recover from Darling's tasteless and very loud treated vocal interventions heard in the first half of the piece. Better recording and mastering could have turned Omegathorp: Living City into a strong album. As it is, it offers a nice document of a heartfelt tribute to Spearman, but little more.

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