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ON HIS SEVENTH ALBUM, PORTLAND-BASED GUITARIST AND COMPOSER, RYAN MEAGHER COMPOSES NEW PIECES SPONTANEOUSLY AND COLLECTIVELY WITH A TROOP OF LIKE-MINDED EXPLORERS.
This is not free jazz. The term “free” implies a lack of boundaries or constraint. While none of the music that appears on Evil Twin was written out, or even thought about before the day of recording, the music typically is created within a set of rules or ideas. It is a bit of a mouthful to say, but the process by which the music on this album is created Ryan Meagher (pronounced Marr) sums up as “collective spontaneous composition.”
“I sometimes use a term, ‘non-idiomatic improvisation’, when I teach this approach to music making, but this project definitely leans more towards the jazz tradition than it doesn’t,” Meagher confesses.
Meagher collected some of his favorite improvisers in Portland who are not afraid to eschew standard vocabulary and set out to record music that was completely improvised but within some parameters.
“I did not want to get all of these incredible improvisers in the same room and just say, ‘Ok, go nuts,’” Meagher states. “While some cool things might have spawned from that, that isn’t what I was trying to do. It was more like, ‘Let’s come at this like we are creating tunes.’ I wanted each improvisation to have a compositional element to it. Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? Is there thematic material being developed? Are we playing together? You know, like, actual compositions that someone who isn’t into super-out music actually wants to hear.”
The name, Evil Twin, comes from the instrumentation of the ensemble. The double bass-less trio is patterned after Meagher’s favorite band, the Paul Motian Trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano. Meagher liked the idea of the openness of going bass-less, while at the same time going even more open than the approach of the vaunted Motian trio who often drew repertoire from Motian’s own book or standards. The individual players on Evil Twin are paired with a colleague that has a much different approach to improvised music. Where Tim Willcox is a master of melody and boasts a rich tenor tone, Lee Elderton is a great woodwind technician and has a ridiculously colorful pallet from which to draw timbres. Meagher’s guitar tone and touch are formidable and his ability to lead the group in a strong compositional direction are paired beautifully with Mike Gamble’s free-wheeling exploration of sonic possibilities and effortless technique. Charlie Doggett is a drummer known for his sensitivity and precision and Tim DuRoche is one of the most adventurous percussionists in Portland and beyond.
Ryan Meagher – electric, baritone, and fretless guitars
Mike Gamble – electric guitar
Tim Willcox – tenor sax
Lee Elderton – alto sax, soprano sax
Charlie Doggett – drums
Tim DuRoche – drums, tiny instruments
Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Clay Giberson at Mt Hood Community College on January 21, 2018
Executive Producer: Ryan Meagher
All composition collectively and spontaneously composed by Ryan Meagher, Mike Gamble, Tim Willcox, Lee Elderton, Charlie Doggett, and Tim DuRoche except “Blocks Better” which was composed by Clay Giberson by arranging audio files of solo improvisations by each member.