Sounds Heard: The Things We Did [This] Summer

My vote for song of the summer (at least for this morning) comes courtesy of Boston-based pop omnivores Pulitzer Prize Fighter and their first single since their late-2012 EP, All Sweetness and Light. “Movies” ticks off all the boxes for a good summer song: a relentless hook, genial amounts of volume, sing-along lyrics proclaiming the merits of shrugging off thoughts of mortality by just doing stuff, a low-key, meandering haze of disposable leisure. Not least, it packages up some nice musical nostalgia, be it a sunny ’70s squall of parallel-harmony guitars, a cool, noir-ish pour of muted trumpet, or the comforting psychedelic worry of a fully diminished seventh chord. (Listen carefully, at the dominant pause just before the end of the bridge, and you can hear a lovely, chromatically descending keyboard decoration buried in the mix like some unexploded ordnance from the British Invasion.)

Summer music, for me anyway, tends to rise and fall on its leveraging of nostalgia, even more so now that actual summer vacation time is an increasingly distant memory. I’m already nostalgic for the beginning of this summer, when a lazy, sun-dappled respite was still a naïve possibility rather than an unattainable grail. In that spirit, here’s a handful of more recent local releases of varying retro commitment and/or critique.
BMOP Spratlan cover
Lewis Spratlan: Apollo and Daphne Variations; A Summer’s DayConcerto for Saxophone and Orchestra
Eliot Gattegno, saxophones
Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Gil Rose, conductor
(BMOP/sound 1035)
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Excerpt from Lewis Spratlan’s A Summer’s Day

Spratlan’s musical version of A Summer’s Day (2008), commissioned and premiered by BMOP, has the instant nostalgia of a strongly evoked, specific time and place. His “Pre-Dawn Nightmare” includes fragments of the theme song to The Sopranos; “At the Computer” evokes the sounds of an already-obsolete desktop machine. And the connective tissue of the piece, the folk-like tune presented at the outset (“Hymn to the Summer Solstice”), is a memory of summer romanticized into an abstraction. But the tune is repeatedly interrupted and contradicted; and Spratlan is more interested in reversing the usual polarity of such tone poems, taking trompe-l’oeil musical literalisms (and some flat-out literalisms, as with the rhythmically dribbled ball in “Pick-up Basketball Game at the Park”) and working them into a fluid, chromatic musical texture until they turn back into pure sound. (BMOP’s stylistic facility is a boon here, shifting effortlessly between limpid lushness and a more incisive, new music briskness.)
The Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra (well-assayed, on both soprano and tenor instruments, by saxophonist Eliot Gattegno) and the Apollo and Daphne Variations do something similar with nostalgic styles, the inevitable jazz references in the former, a deliberately Schumann-esque Romanticism in the latter. Three very different pieces, but all engaged in a rich dance between the memory of something, the actuality of the thing being remembered, and the persistent present that the memory can’t quite mask.
Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol: Whatsnext

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Download from Bandcamp

To be sure, only a couple of tracks on Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol’s big-band album, released this spring, directly traffic in nostalgia, and the nostalgia is pretty specific: “Kozan March” convincingly reimagines a Cypriot folk song as a Neal-Hefti-ish workout; “Gone Crazy: a Noir Fantasy” tosses out handfuls of noir signifiers, with some sirens and police whistles to boot. But much of the fizz of the album—which alternates between a 17-piece traditional band and a 13-piece ensemble that includes traditional Turkish instruments—is Sanlıkol’s use of various vintage sounds, from an eerily formal harpsichord on “Better Stay Home” to the pastoral warblings of a Turkish ney on “The Blue Soul of Turkoromero” to a pellucidly primeval analog synth lead on “N.O.H.A.”
And, anyway, Whatsnext is just superb summer music. Sanlıkol—Turkish-born, Berklee- and NEC-educated—slips Turkish sounds and ideas into a polished, modern big-band idiom with wrinkle-free ease. Relaxed and cool, it turns out, is a universal, cross-cultural virtue.
Neil Cicierega: Mouth Silence
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A good mash-up is a double-shot of impressive cleverness, making two disparate pieces of music play nice with one other. A great mash-up uses that superimposition to tap into some deep commonality across the genre spectrum. Somerville-based Neil Cicierega, though, has devoted 2014 to a style of mash-up even more outlandishly transcendent, as if tapping into a conspiracy theory explaining some alternate history of pop culture.

Like this spring’s Mouth Sounds Mouth Silence makes esoteric use of deliberately banal material, a churn of nostalgia refashioned into something resembling the soundtrack to a Hanna-Barbera adaptation of a Don DeLillo novel. Mouth Sounds— while positing the formerly annoyingly ubiquitous Smashmouth hit “All-Star” as the hidden key to four decades of pop-music history—repeatedly dredged up musical madeleines from the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, only to immediately undercut and profane them. Mouth Silence goes one step further, wreaking havoc on numerous songs that themselves capitalize on nostalgia in one way or another: “Crocodile Rock,” “Born to Run,” “Wonderwall.” REM’s “End of the World” and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” end up in a Street Fighter match of boomer timelines; the good old dark days of Pokémon panic are re-animated into a golem-like stand-in for every fleetingly misunderstood fad. Cicierega’s mischief is so deep that even the moments that don’t quite mesh feel more like elusive clues for any would-be cultural Dale Cooper. And the 24:03 mark? We all go a little mad sometimes.
bso chamber players 1964 cover bso chamber players 1968 cover
Boston Symphony Chamber Players
Music by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Copland, Fine, Carter, and Piston (1964)
Music by Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, Poulenc, Colgrass, Villa-Lobos, Haieff, and Barber (1968)

(BSO Classics)
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Download directly from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Back in April, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, the BSO began re-releasing re-mastered editions of four recordings the group made for RCA in the 1960s. The bulk of the repertoire is Austro-Germanic bread and butter: Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart. But the recordings also included some then-contemporary repertoire, and the result is some prime Boston-School neo-classicism, in rich, time-capsule performances. On the first set, Aaron Copland’s Vitebsk gets a sharp, grim reading; Walter Piston’s 1946 Divertimento is vigorous fun. One of the century’s more notable collection of principal winds—including flutist Doriot Anthony Dwyer and oboist Ralph Gomberg—takes on Elliott Carter’s 1948 Wind Quintet. The best is an exhilarating, athletic account of Irving Fine’s 1957 Fantasia for String Trio, with violinist Joseph Silverstein, violist Burton Fine, and cellist Jules Eskin (today the group’s sole remaining founding member).
Excerpt from Irving Fine’s Fantasia for String Trio

The second re-issue includes Gomberg and Sherman Walt on Alexei Haieff’s lean, light Three Bagatelles for oboe and bassoon, along with Burton Fine and Vic Firth on Michael Colgrass’s Variations for Four Drums and Viola. As a bonus, there is a previously unreleased live recording of Samuel Barber’s Summer Music, a truly excellent performance, as bright and cool and languid as a gin and tonic on the lawn.

New England’s Prospect: Three World Premieres in Wildly Disparate Styles

BMOP Intermission

A BMOP intermission, January 17, 2014: players get ready to work; composers work the room.

It has become commonplace to bash the symphony orchestra. All together now: it’s impractical, old-fashioned, a relic, a museum, a bastion of canonic conservatism, a hangover from long-gone eras and aesthetics. We know the drill.
We want it, though. The sonic luxury, the grandeur, the spectacle—we want it bad. I know this to be true because the Boston Modern Orchestra Project never seems to run out of juice. It fills a need. It mounts concerts that manage to be both one-stop shopping for the merely curious and essential for professionals. (As I’ve said before, BMOP intermissions feature some of the most vigorous new-music networking in town). Put enough people on stage, and any new-music concert becomes an event. BMOP and conductor Gil Rose have been leveraging that fact since 1996.

The “modern” in the name has always been as much stylistic as calendrical (BMOP’s opening concert this season, for instance, was a concert performance of Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts), but its concert at Jordan Hall on January 17 was aggressively new: three world premieres in wildly disparate styles. The curtain-raiser, Elena Ruehr’s Summer Days, continued a long relationship—Ruehr, based at MIT, was BMOP’s first composer-in-residence. Inspired by a Georgia O’Keefe painting (the third O’Keefe-inspired piece Ruehr has written), Summer Days was all mood and activity. The main formal signpost was a brief, brassy fanfare ritornello; the melodic ideas were mostly short and compact, circling around small groups of pitches. The fabric of the piece is repetition and sequence. (The one longer theme, a sustained excursion for the strings, was largely based on a simple rising scale.) Ruehr’s orchestration is Bruckner-like in its heavy outlines: families of instruments play together and stay together, juxtaposed more than mingled. The harmonic color might be characterized as exotically diatonic, bright but modal. But the emphasis is more on transformation and layering. Summer Days felt something like a long, excursively episodic development section, the goal subsumed into the getting there.

About the only thing Ken Ueno’s Hapax Legomenon had in common with Ruehr’s piece was a similar journey-like feel, and even that seemed to be radically altered, forward motion rejected in favor of a furiously concentrated focus on each present moment. Like a lot of Ueno’s music, the spur was a singular technique—in this case, the two-bow cello stylings of Frances-Marie Uitti, the quadruple-stop possibilities of which Ueno fashioned into ever-more dilated harmonies. (The title, the old scholarly term for any word that appears but once in the corpus, was Ueno’s own self-deprecating reference to his fondness for writing for such only-person-in-the-world-who-can-play-it performers.) One of Ueno’s talents is for taking what might seem gimmicks—not just Uitti’s unusual approach, in this case, but also a bunch of hoary extended techniques in the orchestra, key-clicks, breath sounds, having the players sing, etc.—and confidently turning them to new and convincing ends. Hapax Legomenon seemed to pass in heightened slow-motion, every note and texture a drawn-out respiration, every idea daringly situated in some musical gray area, between silence and sound, noise and tone, different temperaments and timeframes. The ending—a long cadenza which featured Uitti creeping up the fingerboard into a distant, shortwave squeal of high natural harmonics—was breathtaking.
David Rakowski’s Piano Concerto No. 2 was, on the surface, a much more conventional piece, and purposefully so—from its lushly chordal, moto perpetuo, étude-ish opening, the reference point seemed to be the highly-stylized, fashionably syncopated Jazz Age piano concerto. But that was a springboard for Rakowski’s brand of subtle mischief. That opening, for starters, ended up a lot more off-balance, the steady rhythmic stream sliced and diced into all manner of speed bumps. The second theme—the place, say, where Gershwin liked to let the piano take over in a wash of rubato—turned into an inside-the-piano exercise, plucked and strummed punctuation to a play of intervals in the orchestra, sixths and sevenths (and others) at harmonic sixes and sevens with each other. Throughout, Rakowski kept dropping in little bits of delicious orchestration. (Note to self: extended doubling of piano and motor-on vibraphone is an idea worth stealing.)

The second movement—conceived as an elegy for Milton Babbitt, one of Rakowski’s teachers—commenced with some more felicitious instrumentation: a stop-and-go duet between the vibraphone and marimba, joined by double-bass pizzicato, that turned into intermittent obstacles in a stream of English horn (then clarinet) cantilena. The echo of Ravel’s G-major concerto was strong, except that the piano filigree here roped the rest of the orchestra into an unexpected faster tempo. The finale had an expected fast and busy character, but ended up being more of a hesitation-toccata, the concerto’s traditional prizefight qualities reduced to a collection of feints and stutter-step footwork, before a cadenza—which finally tipped over into straight stride piano—and a vastly-telescoped reprise of the opening movement brought the piece to a close.
Like Ueno, Rakowski was writing for a specific performer: Amy Briggs, the profoundly adroit Chicago-based pianist who has been the primary performing means of Rakowski’s encyclopedic set of piano études, the increasingly whimsical challenges of which just seem to make Briggs more adventurously game. (Much of the flavor of the concerto—the jazz colors, the soloist’s doubling on celesta at particular formal landmarks—was, according to the program notes, at Briggs’ request.) Like the études, the concerto has more than a little of Rakowski’s trickster personality. Statements and ideas are inseparable from bluffs and subterfuge, not unlike a magic trick in which the misdirection is so skillful and impressive that you don’t notice that your chosen card is never actually revealed. But the patter and the choreography glister.

I suppose, if you take the current cultural landscape as a whole, any organization for which three orchestral premieres is just another night at the office is a little out of the ordinary. But BMOP has been doing it so well and for so long that they’ve created the luxury of expecting it. BMOP’s achievement is the possibility of taking that kind of programming, and the skill and panache with which it’s performed, almost for granted. But only almost. You’d miss it if it was gone.

Sounds Heard: Anthony Paul De Ritis—Devolution

Questions of “real” or “fake” are dialectically put aside on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s new recording of music by Anthony De Ritis, music in which, in a way, everything is real and fake all at the same time. Or, more precisely: this is music which is constantly, enthusiastically directing your attention to the materials out of which it’s fashioned. The manufactured nature of music, which the classical music tradition tries to misdirect away with notions of transcendence and sublimity, is here part of the whole point.

It’s most obvious on the title track, Devolution, a 2004 concerto for turntables (manned by Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky) and orchestra. Using warhorses as familiar as Ravel’s Bolero and Beethoven’s Seventh as fodder for sampling and remixing (by soloist and ensemble alike) fairly ensures that the manipulations are going to be noticeable, the fragments effortlessly grabbing one’s attention. But De Ritis has a knack for translating some measure of that composerly prerogative into a listener’s experience as well; Devolution is a musical evocation of the tactile malleability of music itself, the finished product explicitly indistinguishable from the act of assembling the parts. (The performance, under the direction of Gil Rose, is a blast, hitting the score’s marks with a kind of joyfully volatile precision.)

But the older works on the recording already show hints of that process as well. Legerdemain, from 1994, mixes orchestral and computerized sounds, but in such a way that the boundaries are thoroughly blurred: Are those strings or a string pad? Oscillators or flutter-tonguing? On record, untangling the two is even more difficult, and one instead notices the score’s miscellany of dialects, flipping through expressionist angst and cinematic thrills in equal measure, a stylistic salmagundi to match the means of production. 1992’s Chords of Dust seems more straightforward, a tone poem inspired by the World War II memories of De Ritis’s father, but even here, the elements become noticeable as elements: the decorous march echoes, the mournful chorales, the Copland-esque optimism, the familiar toolbox for evoking the period and the event—but the arrangement positioned somewhere between those standard semiotic signals and a commentary on the act of signaling.

All three works take as their starting point some form of musical détente—between the concert hall and the dance club, or between instruments and electronics, or between the power of experience and the power of cliché. Whether or not such treaties need to be arranged anymore is debatable, but De Ritis has a flair for the negotiations. This is music that enjoys getting down to brass tacks, and noticing just how shiny they are, and how sharp.

New England’s Prospect: Stolen Moments

By coincidence, conspiracy, or zeitgeist, two of Boston’s more prominent new music institutions spent the first weekend in December swimming in that channel of classical jazz and jazzy classicism, the third stream. The 2011 Boston Conservatory New Music Festival (December 1-4), directed by Eric Hewitt, took as its theme “Jumpin’ into the Future: New Music Evolved from Jazz,” four concerts of family resemblances and sibling rivalries.

The festival started in very much hybrid territory—Thursday’s concert featured Pierre Hurel and students from the conservatory’s Improvisation Workshop; Friday’s, jazz-influenced chamber music of European provenance. Saturday’s concert, though (the first I was able to make it to), was an open bar of high-proof jazz: The Fringe (saxophonist George Garzone, bassist John Lockwood, and drummer Bob Gullotti) now in their 40th season of free-jazz ferocity.

The program, called “The Future of the Church of Coltrane,” promised four Coltrane standards; true to their open-ended ethos, the group only made it through two. In their interpretation, the Church of Coltrane’s theology came out as positively Talmudic, the beat never regarded directly, but its contours revealed through learned elaboration: a torrent of skittering double-time carved up into heady, complex varieties of hemiola. Coltrane’s own “Crescent” emerged out of a freeform introduction more or less intact, but soon veered off into a thrillingly intricate give-and-take. Gullotti’s drumming reached an almost continuous roll, like a mandolin of indeterminate pitch, Lockwood holding down the time, Garzone in torrents.

The trio then embarked on an improvised course (if there was a tune behind it, I didn’t recognize it) almost suite-like in its variety, from wandering-through-a-minefield free jazz to a driving, straight-eighth groove and back again. Gullotti managed to expand his already wide palette, sticks, mallets, and brushes giving way to hands for a tabla-like accompaniment to a Lockwood solo. I kept thinking of the way you set up a new television, letting it roam across the spectrum, picking up more and more channels to flip between; by the end, Lockwood and Gullotti in furious sync, Garzone switching packets with great, honking multiphonics, the group was jumping between layers of rhythm with unpredictable push button glee.

Garzone started Billy Eckstine’s “I Want to Talk About You,” a Coltrane showpiece, with a ruminative solo based around some neat, Lisztian trompe l’oeil effects, arpeggiating his own changes up and down from the ridge of the melody. Lockwood and Gullotti snuck in with sparse accompaniment, keeping the background at a simmer even as Garzone continued on his voluble way.

The second half was pure improv, which, curiously, at times sounded more like a standard than the standards did, a neat rising-scale colloquy between Lockwood and Garzone falling into a set of tango-beat changes. Again, it was extended techniques from Garzone that shifted the music into more revelatory territory, before an obsessively Beethovenian climax: Garzone hammering away at a minor third and a low-octave root. For an encore, the group flirted with punk: a brief wall of rapid-fire assault, first Garzone alone, then the others dashing in like Butch and Sundance.

* * *

Sunday night’s festival concert brought a third stream extravaganza, with—who else?—Gunther Schuller, the style’s godfather, at the podium, leading combinations of professional freelancers (organized along the 5-5-5 lines of Stan Kenton’s Progressive Jazz Orchestra) and the conservatory’s student body. (Hewitt, a saxophonist and Schuller protégé, who likewise maintains jazz and modernist footholds, slipped in and out of the band.) The opener was a sharp-lapelled reading of the late George Russell’s “Lydian M-1,” the Lydian Chromatic Concept in its ’50s-cool glory, student Laurent Warnier pouring out the vibraphone lead like a classic cocktail.

Charles Mingus, gone since 1979, still throws curves. Three of his quirkier pieces, all in scaled-down arrangements by Schuller for the Mingus Orchestra, straddled classical and jazz in tricky ways. The performance, too, walked an at times tense line between classical precision and reposed swing, not quite sure whether to stay on top of the beat or sink into it. “Taurus in the Arena of Life” chops and changes between slow swing and crisp, Spanish-tinged steps, and each style always took a few beats to come into focus. “Half-Mast Inhibition,” an early Mingus essay, seemed to have its head alternately turned by Les Six and Raymond Scott. As the performances became more nimble, the classical overtones sounded clearer: “Inquisition” came across as the work of a composer on whom Ravel’s Bolero made a deep and lasting impression.

A pair of Schuller’s own works were clearer in their boundaries. “Headin’ Out/Movin’ In,” a 1994 composition, starts in full modernist provocation, the sort of roiling murk that Schuller does so well (contra-alto, bass, and contrabass clarinets, a deluxe expressionist weave), then trips into an atonally refracted Hampton-esque jump; Tim Meyer took the tenor sax lead—originally written for Joe Lovano—with a nice mercenary bounce. “Jumpin’ in the Future,” one of Schuller’s earliest (1947) big band exercises, was surprisingly effortless in its 12-tone swing—Schuller had this third stream thing nailed pretty early on. A fairly leisurely tempo provided a feeling of solid ease.

It was mostly the pros who took the stage for the second half, devoted to the full band. More Mingus to begin: “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jive Ass Slippers,” a 1965 workout, almost a chorale prelude, with motivically fueled variations in Spanish and swinging colors. The rest was devoted to Robert Graettinger, a composer and arranger who pushed the big band envelope for the Kenton orchestra in the late ’40s and ’50s before dying too young. A pair of arrangements sounded very much like the work of a young man, overflowing with talent and ideas, disdainful of restraint. “Autumn in New York” emerged out of a dense polytonal haze, with the standard sweet sax choir lockstep harmonization sounding practically rococo. “Laura” was even more determined in its unorthodoxy, never coming close to anything even resembling the tune’s standard changes, the formidable trajectory of Raksin’s melody brought out by the lack of harmonic stability.

Graettinger’s originals were similarly drenched in mass. “Thermopylae,” from 1947, applies the dense style to more motivic material in short bits of overlapping melody. The culmination was Graettinger’s magnum opus, the suite City of Glass, here performed in the 1951 version that the Kenton band recorded. The sound is arresting—imagine Gershwin getting his portrait painted by Clyfford Still—and the performance was grand, but the much-of-a-muchness quality was again predominant.

The comparison with Mingus was revealing. Mingus’s handling of the big band style was comparatively more traditional, an outgrowth of the Ellington school. But Mingus was also far more cagey in revealing the band’s full power, which means, of course, that he was far more fluid and varied in his use of instrumental combinations and timbres. Even in City of Glass, Graettinger remained in thrall to the sound of the full band; instead of a play of colors, it was more a saturation, the hues projected together into a dazzling, blinding white.

* * *

The same weekend, at campuses in Amherst and Medford, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project offered its own take on jazz-classical hybrids. (I attended the December 4th concert, at Tufts.) “BMOP and the Abstract Truth”—the title an homage to another progressive big band composer, the great Oliver Nelson—got off to a slow start. George Lewis’s 2010 eight-player Ikons fell much more on the contemporary classical side; despite some intriguing sections—an opening of uneasy oscillations between dense sonorities (almost like late Michael Tippett, actually), a maze of steady, circling eighth notes, eccentrically tenacious—the music eventually settled into busy, arbitrary gong-and-glockenspiel-fueled modernist noodling of a familiar kind.

The stronger pieces on BMOP’s bill, interestingly, juxtaposed the traditions more than they mixed them, using one to set up the appearance of the other. In T. J. Anderson’s Ragged Edge: A Rag Time Reflection, the jazz elements were like a radioactive tracer, revealing in outline the music’s essentially modernist process of deconstruction. The chamber symphony (four winds, four brass, piano, strings, and a drum set, the latter worked with wry exactitude by Craig McNutt) seemed to be continually falling apart into fragments—but each fragment had an exact, fully formed profile. The ideas in Ragged Edge run a gamut, from New Orleans nostalgia to oblique atonality to aleatoric rustling; but there does seem to be a progression, from the duple syncopations of classic rag tropes to the triplet-based swing of ragtime’s novelty imitations to the hard-backbeat, sixteenth-note funk that, perhaps, the piece proposes as the genre’s true descendant.

David Sanford’s 1992 Prayer: in memoriam Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began with a swirl of modernism not unlike Lewis’s, but after a couple minutes in the wilderness, a sharp series of triadic knife chords kicked the music into an insistent, tight modern jazz reproach, eventually reaching a Nelson-worthy place of big band power and new music angles. The music was confident enough to pull off a Haydnesque farewell, everyone leaving the stage except for trumpet (Terry Everson) and piano (Linda Osborn-Blaschke), tying off the wound with eloquent resignation. (Conductor Gil Rose and the group were at their best here, showing off burnished sound and estimably solid swing.)

The second half brought Anthony Davis’s You have the right to remain silent, a 2007 concerto for clarinets (J. D. Parran), electronics (Earl Howard), and fifteen players. Three of its four movements followed a similar pattern: a somewhat disconnected, fragmentary opening, with Parran ruminating in free jazz, extended technique territory, the ensemble occasionally chanting parts of the Miranda warning that provided the work’s title while playing; a cadenza-like section, with Howard manipulating the sampled sounds of Parran and Robert Schulz’s drum set into skittering waves; then a coalescence into full big band drive.

My favorite was the second movement, the orchestra sinuously lush under Parran’s wounded animal multiphonic cries, the cadenza a crescendo into a romantic ballad culmination. The finale, in turn, strikes out into post-modernist territory, a grove of minimalistic ostinati that abruptly dissolves into nothing. I mean it as at least something of a compliment that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of You have the right to remain silent, expansive in scope but more intriguing on a section-by-section basis than taken as a whole.

You have the right to remain silent seemed to have something of Mingus’s elusiveness, though in this case, it was a full marriage of jazz and modernism that was regarded warily. To use an image from that other historically fraught arena of race and artistry, the boxing ring: the jazz and avant-garde threads were always sizing each other up, circling each other, waiting for an opening. It was a bout memorable for its footwork instead of its punch.