This album presents four noted West Coast composers—three from Southern California and one from Fairbanks, Alaska—writing haunting, generally quiet, sometimes lyric, occasionally pensive music for clarinet and bass clarinet accompanied by either string quartet or percussion and piano. All the pieces feature the playing of clarinetist/bass clarinetist Marty Walker.
John Luther Adams’s Dark Wind was written for Marty Walker and this CD in 2001. Although it is a process-driven piece involving polyrhythms and ever-widening intervals, its rolled percussion and piano parts and quietly expressive clarinet lines lend it the feeling of a freely composed, almost impressionistic work.
The Michael Jon Fink, Rick Cox, and Jim Fox quintets were written for Marty Walker in 1990, and given their premieres by him that same year at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (L.A.C.E.) gallery. These pieces were released in 1992 in a limited pressing on the short-lived Raptoria Caam label, a company run by composer/performer Maria Newman.
Michael Jon Fink’s Thread of Summer is a continuous melody filtered through the various timbres of the quintet’s instrumental combinations. Rick Cox’s When April May floats a lyric line over a repeating harmonic structure. Jim Fox’s Between the Wheels is a series of quiet bass clarinet statements, accompanied by violin harmonics, heard against a cycling tapestry of string tremolos.
Among the four ensemble pieces, clarinetist Walker has nested two Interludes—very short improvisations that delicately hover at the threshold of audibility.
“In turns beautiful, expressive, contemplative and haunting, this is music that slows the listener’s world to a crawl; he is thus free to explore all its wonders, both its lights, shimmering and bright, and its shadows, creeping intently over the surfaces of things. Recommended.” —Incursion Music Review
“Reed player Marty Walker leads us deep into a seamless collection of quiet, ruminative chamber pieces by West Coast composers. As different as they are, the works presented here are of a piece. The entire disc is perfectly sequenced; the individual works flow together like a journey, with Walker’s warm and very human tone taking the part of guide and companion. In the best Cold Blue tradition there is plenty of room for the listener here; just enough space to walk a satisfying path between meditative silence and fully sense-engaging sound.” —Dusted Magazine