Thomas Buckner / J.B. Floyd / Lisa Hansen

Transporting Transmittance: Music of J.B. Floyd

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Transporting Transmittance offers a cross section of the many interests of keyboardist and composer J.B. Floyd. The variety, which ranges from modernized boogie-woogie to new age pieces and contemporary art songs, will be the impairing feature for most listeners. Appreciating the album for start to finish requires a very open mind or a deep-rooted interest in Floyd's music. The album begins with "A Transporting Transmittance for Transverse Flute and Disklavier," written for flutist Lisa Hansen. Highly complex, it retains in its written-down score the spontaneous feel of a free improvisation. It stands as a highlight, eclipsed only by the three songs from "From: A Hundred Little 3-D Pictures." Interpreted by baritone Thomas Buckner with the composer at the piano, these three settings of poems by Daniel Moore are exquisite. They irradiate a sense of grace and fantasy, squeezing out one of the singer's strong performances. Up to that point, the album is a charm. Then come two "Improvisations on Robert Ashley's 'eL/Aficionado'," where the original two-piano accompaniment for two scenes from this opera have been programmed into a Disklavier. Floyd replaces the vocal parts with keyboard improvisations, but thanks in part to the simplicity of Ashley's composition, to Floyd's trite choice of keyboard sounds, and to his light, almost easy-listening development of the melodic material, the piece simply doesn't live up to expectations. The "Solos and Sequences II" are more interesting as they work from boogie-woogie themes, but be reminded that another pianist has been doing this kind of reworking ever since the late '60s: Keith Emerson, of the progressive rock group ELP -- and Floyd's music lands surprisingly close to his.

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