Joel Futterman’s Intervals


FUTTERMAN: Intervals, Parts 1-3 / Joel Futterman, pno / Fundacja Słuchaj Records FSR 15, available as digital download or hard copy HERE

American jazz musician Joel Futterman, originally a trumpeter who studied with Clarence “Gene” Shaw (who played with Charles Mingus on East Coasting and especially Tijuana Moods, which made him briefly famous) before turning to the piano, here gives us a study in the creation of music around various intervals. According to Marc Medwin’s liner notes:

it all begins with…a gently pulsing octave…giving the new form lifeblood and focus…Intervals comprises iterations and reiterations of elastic instants, molten moments melted and frozen…A three-note melodic figure, an octave and related pedal-tones, and a gently ascending arpeggio succeeded by a rejuvenating pause, recur in slow dance or rapid-fire-juxtaposition throughout this hour of sound in space.

Accurate, but a very poetic description of the music. Reading that, one would never guess that Futterman actually creates melodic lines within his intervallic exploration, but he does. Indeed, it is the lyrical quality of his music that makes the whole process fascinating and compelling to listen to.

Joel FuttermanFor all his free-form exploration of intervals as such, Futterman is focused on forward momentum and the creation of coherent and interesting lines using only a string of various intervals. This is in part because he begins with open intervals within the tonal system. His influences, aside from Shaw, include Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. Futterman does at times move into rapid, complex figures, but he always pulls back and returns to the simple forms.

Nine minutes into Part One of this improvised suite, and Futterman is busy indeed, creating a maelstrom of sound on the keyboard, sometimes flying up and down in rapid arpeggios a la Cecil Taylor, but he never stays in this space. Moreover, by playing all of the long, slow music that preceded it, the listener understands that this is merely a temporary excursion and that sooner or later Futterman will come back to earth. Moreover, thanks to his careful setup, Futterman leads the listener to understand that this more advanced and complex music is but a development of what came before, not a completely different piece.

The second section opens with the same octave interval as part one, but Futterman takes it into different directions. This section isn’t so much a development or contrast to part one  so much as it is just a longer alternate take. But there are considerably differences here, particularly at the 20:45 mark when Futterman suddenly starts playing a sort of barroom swing.

In the very brief (4:19) third track, Futterman uses a bit of playing the inside strings of his instrument. This section almost feels like a coda to the first two, longer excursions.

Nonetheless, this is an interesting album, highly creative and well worth listening to.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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