- 01 – Revelations of the sun
- 02 – Facing west to the east
- 03 – The improbability of now
- 03 – The improbability of now – 2
- 04 – And each other
- 04 – And each other – 2
THOLLEM MCDONAS – MEETING AT THE PARTING PLACE
In the words of composer Terry Riley, Thollem McDonas is “a true original” and “an astounding pianist who understands the huge scope of the instrument”. His pianistic style draws from the full spectrum of the vanguard spirit of both Classical music and Jazz. Joan Jeanrenaud, composer and former cellist of the Kronos Quartet, who penned the liner notes for this release, writes that “Listening to Thollem McDonas play the piano is an astonishing experience. He has an innate ability to compose transcendent music using the piano as his expressive voice and to explore the depth and range of the instrument like no one else”. He was highlighted in William Parker’s recently published, seminal book on improvised music, Conversations II: Dialogues and Monologues. For much of his life Thollem has lived on the road, collaborating with hundreds of artists from wildly different backgrounds, engaging himself in the world as a pianist, composer, improviser, educator and activist.
Thollem is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, growing up in what was known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight. His performance recalls and summarizes the many influences and idioms he experienced in the area including music from Mexico, India, Persia, Ireland; Javanese Gamelan; marching bands; African drumming and West Coast composers such as Henry Cowell, John Cage, Harry Partch, Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley and Lou Harrison. Through integrations and collisions, this stew of musical inspirations has enabled Thollem to develop his own unique musical voice, making him a paramount American artist. Thollem’s preparation for this recording overlapped with his solo concert in a series celebrating Riley’s 80th birthday this year. Recorded soon thereafter, Thollem approached the process in the spirit of the live concert he had performed, this time for the engineers and the legendary room at Skywalker Studios. He considers this album “by far the most personal I have released”.
Booklet in English, French and German.
Program notes by Joan Jeanrenaud.
“… McDonas veers towards deep and sepia toned ruminations as he explores thoughts and melodies with intriguing singularity. Ten fingers taking you on a journey.”
Jazz Weekly – George W. Harris / 19 January 2017
“Pianist Thollem McDonas goes it all alone. His four compositions each clock in within 15 seconds of 17 minutes, making you wonder if there isn’t some sense of symmetry to his thinking and skills. He’s got a strong sense of drama, as shown on “And Each Other,” and adds some extra sounds by using the piano strings on the pizzicato’d “The Improbability of Now.” “Revelations of the sun” and “Facing West to the East” are expansive and filled with rich use of both hands, feeling spontaneous a la Keith Jarrett, but without the self importance. Instead, McDonas veers towards deep and sepia toned ruminations as he explores thoughts and melodies with intriguing singularity. Ten fingers taking you on a journey.”
“Meeting at the Parting Place is a true tour de force of spontaneous music creation; a wonderful example of what happens when immense technique, boundless inspiration and highly focused artistic vision converge.”
AllAboutJazz – Dave Wayne / 1 October 2016
“Coming at improvisational music from the classical realm, pianist Thollem McDonas remains resolutely outside of the main stream of the jazz world. Primarily inspired by, as he puts it in his liner notes to Meeting at the Parting Place, ..."European concert music from the Renaissance to the 20th Century and jazz, particularly of the '60s and '70s" McDonas has consciously chosen a more difficult—but more artistically rewarding—path. He's one of those rare artists whose modus operandi is predicated upon the development of a highly personal approach to music-making, and one that encompasses all of his experience—musical or otherwise—thus far. For McDonas, this includes seemingly endless travel, numerous musical associations that span vast economic and cultural differences, and significant work in punk rock (with Mike Watt, John Dieterich, Brian Chase, and with the Italian band Tsigoti), overtly jazz-based improvisation (trios and duos with Lukas Ligeti, Nels Cline, William Parker, and Michael Wimberly), classical music (with collaborators such as Pauline Oliveros and the late cellist Stefano Scodanibbio), and in various multimedia settings. It's as if his main intent is to remain—or become—truly open to all possibilities.
To some, an album of improvised music for solo piano may seem to be an insurmountably difficult listening experience. Nothing wrong with that. And McDonas pulls no punches here; his virtuoso improvising is as freewheeling and challenging as ever. Yet, Meeting at the Parting Place is, above all, a work of art that invites its audience to lean in, enveloping the listener in a sound world that is simultaneously strange and familiar. Perhaps Thollem's most thoroughly inviting and enjoyable recording thus far, Meeting at the Parting Place is replete with Moorish, North African, and Middle Eastern harmonies, rhythms and motifs. Even the dissonant staccato bursts and inside-the-piano manipulations that open "The Improbability of Now" resolve into rhythms and melodies that seem flamenco-inspired. A host of other influences and interesting tendencies seem to pop up unexpectedly; there's a sequence about 13 minutes into "Facing West to the East" that could be a coup de chapeau to Cecil Taylor, there are also hints of minimalism and passages of Satie-like delicacy and charm. McDonas' manic humor is also quite evident throughout: he particularly likes to "crush" passages of highly technical classical technique with sudden bursts of dissonant chords or even-more-manic scrabblings.
Though each of the album's four long tracks exceeds 15 minutes in length, there are pauses, breathing spaces, and lacunae within that presage significant diversions and variations. These gaps and discontinuities serve McDonas' music well, and remind the listener that there's a thinking, feeling, breathing human being doing these amazing things with a piano. Some of the album's most breathtaking moments come right after these pauses; such as the dark-hued rumination that follows the opening sequence of "The Improbability of Now." Meeting at the Parting Place is a true tour de force of spontaneous music creation; a wonderful example of what happens when immense technique, boundless inspiration and highly focused artistic vision converge.”