Usually, the impetus necessary for a musician to start his own record label is the desire to put out a recording he was unable to interest other labels in. If that's what happened with Kevin Norton's For Guy Debord, something is wrong on planet avant-garde. For his first release on Barking Hoop, the percussionist offers a piece in nine continuous events, 37 minutes long. The cast is star-studded: Anthony Braxton (the leader's teacher and mentor), Bob DeBellis, David Bindman (of the Brooklyn Sax Quartet), Tomas Ulrich (cellist in Dominic Duval's string quartet), and bass veteran Joe Fonda. Each event is scored for a different grouping, but the sections are well integrated into the whole. Norton opens on vibes but also plays the drum kit, including a mean solo. Braxton delivers a poignant contrabass clarinet episode early in the piece. Guy Debord was a filmmaker and writer of post-Dadaist allegiance and a central figure in the 1968 Paris student uprising. The connection between his eccentric works and Norton's piece probably resides in his concept of the "drift," as Bill Shoemaker argues in his liner notes. The music does drift from one section to the next, although it does not form a linear tangible journey. Norton's writing is precise and surprisingly lyrical, yet it eschews easy answers. Moreover, it provides an excellent vehicle for interpretation. Braxton's influence is palpable but not despotic. The sound quality could have been better (some overload during the drum solo, an annoying glitch at the very end of the CD) but, all in all, For Guy Debord makes a strong avant-garde jazz album, uncompromising and captivating.
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