Red Room

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In the days when non-idiomatic improvisation dictates the "place to be" in avant-garde music, Dan de Chellis' keyboard playing, so informed by jazz and the classical music corpus, appears almost anachronistic. But framed like it is in Chainworks with the burbling analog electronics of Brian Moran and the textural, noise-based percussion work of Matt Hannafin, it sounds refreshing and engaging. Red Room combines recordings from two concerts, one at the Red Room in Baltimore in May 2002, the other at the Right Bank in Brooklyn seven months later. de Chellis plays a keyboard set on a piano patch in two of the four pieces, and a Fender Rhodes patch on the remaining ones. At the piano, his phrasing, choice of scales, and use of contrasting dynamics recall Stravinsky, Lutoslawski and other European composers of the first half of the 20th century. The Rhodes transforms his fingers into a sleazy jazzman. Of course, the contrast is actually a lot less dichotomized and caricatured than that, and the input of the other two-thirds of the trio flattens out the cleavage. The intricate hubbub Moran and Hannafin stir up often steals the attention away from the keys and, when it doesn't, teleports de Chellis' playing in quasi a-historical context. "RR2" and "RR3" contain some gripping moments, among de Chellis' best committed to disc.

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