first spare notes of this extraordinary recording of piano and percussion
music, it is clear that Dana Reason is finding her own creative voice, without
paying heed to the boundaries that define jazz, classical, or "new" music.
damped or allowed to ring and decay, these opening notes of "The Caretakers"
not only present themselves in space and time with certain characteristics
of pitch and shape, but they define the intervening spaces in such a way
that the "silences" become integral, even audible components of the composition,
as well. When the first mysterious chimes and clangs of Peter Valsamis'
percussion and sampler ring in a few moments later, like the ghosts of an
ancient gamelan another layer of meaning rises from the depths of this deceptively
simple sounding introductory passage. For nearly 20 minutes, the track progresses
through sections of varying sonic density and emotional intensity, sometimes
gathering like a storm on the horizon, briefly unleashing itself with abandon,
piano and drums tangling as one; at other moments, waning to a whisper,
allowing room for reflection and respite from the emotional turmoil.
between silence and sound, simplicity and intrigue, tranquillity and turbulence,
are just a few of the borders Reason and Valsamis dance across on the five
extended pieces collected here. Another is the increasingly porous barrier
that once existed between composition and improvisation. Reason and Valsamis
have become important participants in the ongoing movement to redefine,
or at least enlarge, the roles of the composer and improviser.
Crossings was being recorded, Reason was a graduate at Mills College in
Oakland, California. After moving there from Montreal, she and Valsamis
added their energies to the San Francisco Bay Area's thriving creative music
scene, in which the sense of adventure and the search for authentic personal
expression are valued for more than adherence to any predetermined genre.
of "the quest" takes Reason and Valsamis into territories associated with
everything from chamber music to avant-garde jazz. It also impels them to
extend the conventional technical approaches to their instruments, whether
that means reaching inside the piano or using a panoply of mallets, brushes,
and pads. Yet, eclecticism and technique remain firmly in the service of
pure and original musicality. Their ability to seamlessly traverse traditional
delineations comes in part from training.
her Bachelor of Music from McGill University, her Master of Arts in Composition
from Mills, and is pursuing her Doctorate of the University of San Diego.
She has studied composition with Alvin Curran, Pauline Oliveros, Alcides
Lanza, and John Rea, and piano with Julie Steinberg, Boaz Sharon, and Louis-Philippe
Pelletier. Her performance credits include appearances at the Knitting Factory
in New York City the Music Gallery in Toronto, and the San Francisco Jazz
festival, as well as with George Lewis, Joe McPhee, Lisle Ellis, Philip
Gelb, and the Cecil Taylor Orchestra. Reason's debut CD, Primal Identity,
was released in 1996 on Pauline Oliveros' Deep Listening label.
with a Bachelor of Arts from Concordia University, is versed in Balinese
gamelan, gospel,jazz, and electro-acoustic music.He has worked with Steve
Lacy, Vinnie Golia, Bern Nix, Al MacDowell, Bob Ostertag, Don Preston, and
is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts of Mills College.
the training and impressive resumes in the world cannot take the place of
vision. And in music, as ironic as it sounds, vision is something you can
hear. It is audible in Reason's almost breathless solo piano piece, "Bird
of Paradise;" in which she carefully sculpts the steps of a path that leads
you on a walking meditation through a gallery of dappled light, where melodic
fragments describe hidden harmonies, and the ear attends, in exquisite anticipation,
to the subtlest variations of pressure on the keys, the strings, the air.
That vision conjoins curiosity and invention during "EMC" which deconstructs
and revoices the pop vocal standard "Everything Must Change," making explicit
the message of a lyric that may be taken for granted in today's popular
and political culture but not in spontaneous, tumbling interactions of Reason
Crossings continues through the title composition -- a 19-minute suite of
six movements, advancing from a conversation between instrumental textures
toward their ultimate assimilation -- and into the concluding "Duet for
the End of Time," you might find yourself experiencing the sensation that
you are listening to music rather than to players, a sensation that is especially
exhilarating, even liberating, given our culture's tendency to exalt the
cult of personality in pop music and the cult of individual exhibitionism
in both the jazz and classical idioms.
compositions are indeed profoundly personal, and her performances with Valsamis
express strikingly original colors, shades, and dynamics. But what emerges,
sometimes delicately, sometimes boldly, from the sympathetic interplay of
piano and percussion is less a declaration of virtuosity and style than
an unfolding of meaning and an expression of that ineffable quality, musical
integrity. That may be the most difficult border to cross. Dana Reason and
Peter Valsamis make it seem as natural as breathing and as magical as life
Richardson, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Fi Magazine