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Shapes, Textures, Rhythms, Moods of Sound

Leroy Jenkins

This was one of the first recordings to really open my ears to post-jazz improvised music. Violinist and composer Leroy Jenkins (1932-2007) was a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an influential collective founded in Chicago in 1965 and still active today. Though Jenkins is probably best known for his 1970s albums with the Revolutionary Ensemble, his deep discography also features pairings with figures such as Rashied Ali (Swift Are the Winds of Life, 1976), Abdul Wadud (Straight Ahead/Free at Last, 1979), Muhal Richard Abrams (Lifelong Ambitions, 1981), and Joseph Jarman (Out of the Mist, 1997).

"Shapes, Textures, Rhythms, Moods of Sound" comes from the album Mixed Quintet (recorded in 1979, released in 1983), featuring Jenkins on violin and viola, Marty Ehrlich on bass clarinet, J. D. Parran on clarinet, John Clark on horn, and James Newton—whose literally screaming solo is one of the highlights of the piece—on flute. Structurally, the piece alternates between more or less fully notated passages, which Jenkins, following bebop terminology, calls "heads," and those, like the opening section, with minimal graphic notation and the simple instruction "IMPROVISE."

AACM composers tended to see composition and improvisation as a continuum along which creative musicians were expected to move freely, and Jenkins' comments in the album's liner notes make it clear how fluidly the two approaches intermingle in this music:

“The ‘heads’ are strictly notated. That’s where composing comes in. Improvisation is the main thing, but I always use composition to guide. We’re not playing aimless improvisations, we’re going places. The music that I compose sets up where we’re going each time. Yet a musician may bring something to the piece that affects where I want it to go, and if he does, then good, I’ll go with it. That’s what I hired him for, because he’s a known improviser. An improviser will try things, things I never thought of. Sometimes they don’t work, but when they do I’ll go with them. I want adventure. I want a guy who will try to get up and impress me and other people. Musicians, after all, are the ones who bring a composition out. When I wrote it, it was just a figment of my imagination. When they play it, it’s for real.”
The first page of the score for "Shapes, Textures, Rhythms, Moods of Sound"


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