Maat mons cs406









As always, the geometry is of the n-dimensional sort. The number of dimensions that vary is impressive: membership, instrumentation, location, duration, and so on. Certainly, the overall shape of each VGO performance is highly variable, like a murmuration of birds, as I alluded to in a review of the earlier Lulu Auf dem Berg. VGO remains a compelling attempt to harness the timbral and dynamic range of an orchestra while maintaining the flexibility in structure and individual freedoms afforded by improvisation. Maat Mons is scaled back from the enormous undertaking of Quasar, released earlier in 2016 and featuring the largest group on record to date, with 46 members. The 21 musicians on Maat Mons are less than half that number, but as with all VGO performances, a mere head count reveals little about the direction the music will take.

The piece rouses slowly, maintaining a low volume and a jittery, charged air of possibility as small groups of players make exploratory advances. But soon Rodrigues changes tack, and Maat Mons harkens back to the bigger free jazz-inspired sound of the group’s earliest recordings, as tapping cymbals and an animated bass line sketch out a shaky groove and the horns begin to raise their voices. As the music becomes more dynamic, illusions of figure and ground emerge in the unplaceable, shuffling timbre of nearly two dozen musicians. The listener is moved through the space in which the musicians are performing, one instrument momentarily the focal point, only to be subsumed in the din and the focus shifted to someone else, the foreground and background in constant flux. Three-quarters through the performance, the music drops to near silence, irregular dribbles of piano over a canvass of radio static and Maria Radich’s sibilant whispers. Dan Sorrells (The Free Jazz Collective)