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Tricycle review
by Art Miizov

Bassist and composer Bill Noertker released three CDs of original music on the Edgetone Records label this spring, 2020, just as the earth was going through a pandemic known as corona virus. Changes, changes, a sonic book of changes here, for your ears!  Vast!

 

The music contained in these three discs leans into melody, harmony, rhythm and texture in varied and provocative ways.

 

The melodies are often written with crisp, neo classical and exacting lines, and then go into central sections that are based upon improvisation utilizing chord changes, discrete or otherwise. Or sometimes going into apparently purely intuitive sections of sound shaping. Yet each individual piece follows its own formula like an autodidact.

 

Annelise Zamula is the only constant in this three disc suite besides the bandleader Noertker. She is highly adept and expressive, and is a great interpreter of the bassist's melodies and an improviser with great tone and conception on the alto saxophone and the flute. She previously played with Noertker in the art rock band Bardo, and the instrumental collective the After the End of the World Coretet.

 

The music contained on this series of recordings titled Tricycle I, II, and III was inspired by trips the composer took to London, Sidmouth (England), and Mexico City.

 

I can hear aspects of Mexico from the disc called "Leonora, Tricycle III' in two pieces called  'Metro Cosmos (entrance and exit)', with a chorus of two flutes looping around ceremoniously, and turning into a kind of a rumba.

 

'Buddhist Isometrics' appears on the disc called 'Elysium, Tricycle II' with beautiful flute lines stretched across a backpainted soundscape of pizzicato bass, kaleidoscopic drumming, and harmonic commentary by the piano only to enter a room of extended techniques and percussion; perhaps portraying the internal dialogue comings and goings of a meditator's brainwave patterns.

 

'Holiday Princess of 1946' from the disc called 'Amor Fati, Tricycle I'  has a swing underpinning and a jaunty head over a vaguely ominous  tonality. Things get fractalized midway through this middle of this track thanks to the detailed drumming of Jordan Glenn and Noertker's bass. The cartoon of the melody returns, You can hear the ghost of territory bands barnstorming across a post-depression midwest America through the DNA of the swing and the saxophones. I can also hear elemental sounds: wind and water, under the atmosphere, on the dirt.

 

There is a lot of music to deal with on these three recordings, packaged in monochromatic purple, green, and orange, respectively. Noertker has a bit of the film director in him. He is a story teller using sound to convey impressions of a place. The nature of music without lyrics is a great abstraction, dealing with combinations of sound that have emotional resonance that are personal to each listener. The music is all performed by various quartets and quintets. (i.e., saxophones, piano, flutes, oboe, acoustic bass, and drums)  Each ensemble is strong and well blended, all recorded live in San Francisco at concerts in 2018 and 2019. Delicate and  imaginative: sometimes soundscapes, sometimes ping ponging across the linear landscape of a score and sound, crossing bar lines of different meters to make a shape like the back of a dragon. The recordings are clear and transparent. There is no post production addition that I could detect. It's very much like being immersed in the vivid sound of the band;  in the moment.

 

I've listened to all of the music three times through. It is epic in scope and yields repeated, rewarding spins. Bill Noertker is a unique composer to be reckoned with, indeed. This music is cinematic, curious, and soulful.  Highly recommended .

 

Art Miizov