Ned Rothenberg

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Alto saxophonist, clarinetist, and shakuhachi master Ned Rothenberg's discography is not as exhaustive as those of his peers on the New York downtown scene, making the release of this double album of solo work all the more welcome. The two shakuhachi tracks that open and close the first disc reveal Rothenberg's understanding and assimilation of the Honkyoku tradition. These frame nine pieces for clarinet and bass clarinet that showcase the performer's mastery of various extended techniques on the instrument, from rich multiphonics ("Color Wheel," "Opening") to woody slaps ("Sharp Bubbles"), while never losing sight of the instruments' ability to carry a well-crafted melody line ("One Little World," "Melody Won"). Especially impressive is Rothenberg's use of circular breathing, recalling his extraordinary duo album with Evan Parker on Leo Records, Monkey Puzzle. This technique features prominently on the second disc of the set, on which Rothenberg concentrates on the alto saxophone. The full breadth of the saxophonist's musicianship is evident throughout, especially on "Inevitable Surprise," and the touching elegy to the late Thomas Chapin, "T.C." Both those familiar with Rothenberg's work and newcomers will find much to savor in these two beautifully realized discs.

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