Recorded at AirWave Recording Studios, Chicago on February 17,1997.
Though music is commonly regarded as the personal expression of the composer, interpreter, or improviser, one seldom meets someone whose personality is in such accordance with his music as Guillermo Gregorio. At first, he impresses with his modesty. But he is much more self-confident than those who believe they need to make an outward showing of their confidence. His music is sparse as well as generous.
- Bert Noglik (All Music Guide)
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Guillermo Gregorio and The Provocation of Subtle Sound. Though music is commonly regarded as the personal expression of the composer, interpreter, or improviser, one seldom meets someone whose personality is in such accordance with his music as Guillermo Gregorio. At first, he impresses with his modesty. But he is much more self-confident than those who believe they need to make an outward showing of their confidence. His music is sparse as well as generous.
Ellipsis as a title is as much in congruence with his music as Approximately, the title of his first Hat Hut album (hat Art 6184). As close as words can come to his music-if they can approach it at all-"approximately" hints at the process of coming close to but not settling on a single, fixed solution, and "ellipsis" reminds us to be aware of what is left out as well as what is stated. It is no accident that Gregorio, who is at home in the world of music and in the realm of architecture and design, who knows about the significance of creative constructions and the process of manipulating essentials, has with Ellipsis chosen in his music is of the same importance as what is not fixed, what is said is as meaningful as what is left unsaid. And expression seems to be a word too simple to describe those sounds which develop deep under or high above the surface of human dramas and intellectual considerations.
What is most fascinating to me, listening to the music of Ellipsis, is its ambiguity. There is a feeling for the fluency of Time which certainly is rooted in the jazz tradition. But there is also an awareness of form and structure which is resistant to the amorphous flow of the subconscious. There is as much a sense of intuition coming from the Tristano school as there is a Webernian precision in the details of configuration. And even the euphoric gestures of Albert Ayler may be found in this music, though the musicians do not speak them outright. Again, you have to listen as much to what is not played as to what is played. The use of extended and free tonalities as well as microtonal and tex-tural exploration has to do with the musicians' and especially Gregorio's past experiences. As we know, while living in Buenos Aires in the '60s he performed with Fluxus, free jazz, and improvisational groups similar to Nuova Consonanza and AMM, and later on in Europe and the U.S. continued to make music influenced by Lennie Tristan, Warne Marsh, and Lee Konitz as well as Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, by Anton Webern and Arnold Schonberg as well as Earle Brown and Morton Feldman. To Gregorio, all of this input relates to him and to each other. I presume he is able to bring these different aspects together because he is so versatile and focused in his creative activities. The fact that he has always been involved in both composing and improvising music helps to fuse, and not confuse, these qualities, which seem contradictory only to outsiders.
In a talk I had with Guillermo Gregorio about the essentials of his music, he stated: "I want to redefine my past experiences every time in a new frame and from a different point of view." Listen to the music on Ellipsis and you will understand what he means. It is not about postmodern pastiche or an eclectic summation of varied interests. Re-definition includes re-creation, complexity, and a multi-perspective approach. It calls for personality.
Gregorio cannot compose or play what he has not experienced. For instance, while he acknowledges the influence Morton Feldman has had on him, his music is able to reflect that experience without sounding like Feldman's music. After so many years of loud and highly expressive sounds dominating the development of free jazz and post-free jazz, Gregorio has discovered the provocation of reduction, and leaving sounds out: "It's very quiet-not exactly quiet music, but music with a great deal of understatement. I want people to listen again to the very subtle sounds, and to the silences and the spaces in between the sounds. And I think of that as a provocation after thirty-five years of loud sounds."
There is also a subtle kind of provocation in Gregorio's use of structural elements. Working with preconceived structures as well as improvisation in his music, the written parts alternate between conventional and graphic notation-the transitions between all these components, methods, and procedures are intentionally fluent. There is freedom for the players within the interpretation of notation and there are hints for structuring the improvisations. Gregorio refers to Jackson Pollock, whose manner of "automatic painting" became as predictable at a certain point as some of the sound production in free jazz: "I think that the inclusion of some structural elements today can provoke people to listen to what is happening within the music much more than open form. The completely open form had a tendency to become predictable. I want to suggest relationships between the parts and the changes in our music. "Again, there are many levels of ambiguity. Though tension is created by the overlapping intentions and actions of the composer and this ensemble of Chicago-based musicians who bring their own individual experiences to the music, it remains transparent and focused. The segues and frequent simultaneities of solo and collective playing are as fascinating as the instrumentation, which avoids being identified as classical, or jazz, or folk/popular/ethnic. To open spaces for ambiguity should not be confused with being vague and undecided. Guillermo Gregorio is totally accurate with what he approaches approximately, and fully coherent with what he leaves out within his ellipsis.