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In Collaboration with Tom Heasley and His Tuba

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Tom Heasley plays the tuba, which besides being the most cumbersome instrument is also the last one you might expect to use in experimental composition. Yet Heasley not only does so, he has built a reputation for applying his unconventional instrument in the production of some very tasty contemporary music, whether it be avant garde or classical or jazz.

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BOBBY BRADFORD/TOM HEASLEY/KEN ROSSER: Varistar (CD on Full Bleed Music)

This release from 2009 offers 69 minutes of jazz chamber music.

Bobby Bradford (who has played with Ornette Coleman and John Carter) plays cornet. Tom Heasley (who is renowned for his electric tuba work) contributes his first un-plugged recording on that instrument. Ken Rosser (who has played with Smokey Robinson, Todd Rundgren, Stan Ridgway, the Grandmothers, John Abercrombe, David Torn, Glenn Branca, and John Cage) plays guitar.

Imagine chamber music with deep jazz overtones.

The coronet produces a delightfully shrill brass cadence that vibrates with zesty verve. The horn delivers staccato notes that shimmer and linger, sinking their vivacity deep into the listenerís psyche.

The tuba provides a booming bottom that refuses to be relegated to a submerged vantage. Its lumbering intonations float through the mix like colored balloons filled with a glutinous substance that makes each notes shudder with amorphous definition.

The guitar is generally twinkling in nature, with its nimble-fingered sharp chords cavorting with cheerful abandon. Generally, the riffs seem to ride atop the rest of the sounds, acting like solar panels and infusing the melodies with an engaging livelihood. Notes are bent and sustained in a manner that transforms riffs into overlapping phrases.

The combination of these normally different instruments produces a lovely sound that is quite enticing.

These compositions are thoroughly improvised. The tunes are spry and full of thought-provoking resonance. Thereís more jazz going on here than chamber music, but then the initial sound evokes a scenario of a recital hall populated by a relatively younger audience than ones that follow orchestral traditions. Thatís the keynote allure of this music: its dedication to forging new grounds. Yet the music itself possesses the hooks and mesmerization to appeal to a wide range of listeners.

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STUART DEMPSTER/TOM HEASLEY/ERIC GLICK RIEMAN: Echoes of Syros (CD on Full Bleed Music)

This release from 2009 offers 55 minutes of breathy ambient music.

Stuart Dempster (a member of the Cathedral Band and a founding member of the Deep Listening Band) plays trombone, didjeridu, conch, garden hose, and toys. Tom Heasley plays tuba and electronics. Eric Glick Rieman (who has played with Fred Frith and David Slusser) plays prepared Rhodes piano.

Lavish realms of stately beauty emerge from a vaporous auralscape.

The title track is an epic auralscape (at 34 minutes long) of haunting demeanor. Pensive tonalities are generated and sustained, stretched into luxurious sonic tendrils that fill the environment and refuse to diminish. As additional tones enter the mix, the pastiche grows in density as it expands in territory. Melodic hints emerge from the harmonic flow, as sighing sounds of diverse personality interact.

It turns out that the tuba is a perfect companion piece for a didjeridu. Both instruments generate sounds in the low register, and while the didjeridu produces a naturally eerie resonance, Heasley knows how to process his tuba to bestow a striking spooky flair to the instrument.

Trombone and conch only serve to enhance the overall spectral flavor of this music, at least in the breathy manner these instruments are used.

The presence of Rhodes electric piano fits nicely with this bevy of wind-driven instruments, providing a delicate undercurrent of glistening character.

The other three tracks on the album pursue more discordant expressions, with erratic clatterings and random toots.

In a world where the majority of ambient music is created with the exclusive use of synthesizers and other electronic equipment, it is refreshing to hear ambience crafted with traditional instruments. These improvised compositions offer an interesting alternative with their haunting, breathy tuneage.

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