Keshavan Maslak

Excuse Me, Mr. Satie

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OK. Two jazz/free improv geeks decide to take the original big daddy of the avant-garde to lunch under the pretense they want to discuss his compositions. They proceed to get him drunk and steal his music, which they discover they can't read correctly because of its strange notation. They decide to play it anyway, throwing in their own touches to add "color" to the proceedings. Not really, but it could have happened. American Keshavak Maslak (aka Kenny Millions) and Japanese Katsuyuki Itakura (on reeds and piano, respectively) have taken a substantial portion of short compositions by Erik Satie, transposed them for piano and soprano saxophone or clarinet, inserted a few of their own gems, and generally created something new and delightful from the wreckage caused by their well-meaning musical terrorism. They've kept Satie's minimal approach and mysterious lyricism intact on most pieces, but have extrapolated their themes to include new cadenzas -- especially where there weren't any to begin with -- and push tempos and harmonies around to bring them into a setting that resembles something more akin to chamber jazz played in the avant-garde. A recording like this could well have been a pretentious disaster, but it's far from that because both men have a healthy sense of humor and a genuine love for Satie's music; they're not out to improve it, they're out to enjoy playing with it and feel its inherent beauty. Their own tunes are another story and there are plenty of those too, given that they're interspersed between every other Satie composition. There's plenty going on in them -- perhaps too much -- and the humorous sense the musicians offer in Satie's music goes overboard in their own (though there is some serious scalar and chromatic investigation, particularly in Itakura's music). After a while though, you will wish the principals had left their music off this outing -- since it pales in comparison -- and stuck with the Satie thematic. But that's the beauty of a CD player: You can program out the stuff you don't want to hear. It almost worked.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:26
2 3:46
3 4:00
4 3:09
5 3:40
6 1:48
7 2:11
8 2:43
9 2:22
10 3:16
11 1:28
12 5:27
13 2:20
14 5:02
15 1:29
16 5:42
17 1:44
18 3:18
19 1:57
20 1:39
blue highlight denotes track pick