I bring up the concept of "big ears" quite often when discussing improvised music. The basic idea is that a group finds inspiration by staying in the musical moment, the closely focused senses following, and following up on, each sonic turn.
And so it is with this Jerry Granelli & V16 release. Complementing Granelli's drums (VH1 Popup moment: Granelli played on Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas") are J. Anthony Granelli on electric bass, and David Tronzo & Christian Kogel on electric slide guitar and electric guitar, respectively. Together they form a unit capable of taking an idea and collectively growing it in real time.
Yea, yea, pretty words and all, but what does it sound like? This group likes to take one short fragment and then react to it until all of the musical juice is gone. Solutions to the problems posed by single ringing notes, arpeggios, and clusters can take many forms: melodic extensions continuing the musical line, counter melodies, rhythmic counterpoints (something "short" punctuating a longer bit), dissonance. Granelli describes the approach: "The band became more interested in playing each tune as if we were a single entity, like a big eight-handed musician…We wanted to play compositions that at the same time provided structure but could be deconstructed on the fly."
Soundwise, because of the music's openness, it seems like a hybrid of the Americana of Bill Frisell with a modified Ornette/harmolodic concept.
The Sonic Temple is one of those rare collective improvisations that can at times sound fully composed. This is not because it lacks for surprises (a cover of "It's A Man's World"!): no, not at all. The surprise, on most tunes anyway, is that as each piece goes on, its concept and shape come into sharp relief… as if it was there all along. Now that is either a neat trick or sign that this group has it going on.
Honestly, prepare to be amazed, because it's that good.