You don’t find too many bass clarinets in Santo Domingo but Paul Austerlitz packs his whenever he goes. That and a pen. Over the years he has returned home to Gettysburg not only with hot musical contacts in his address book but also material for two seminal books on the music of the Dominican Republic: “Merengue: Dominican Music and Dominican Identity” and “Jazz Consciousness: Music, Race and Humanity.”
This CD, Journey, turns those themesâ€“the influence of African music traditionsâ€“into music at once freshly individual and rooted in a wider community. There’s forward-looking melodic jazz, infectious Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and creative directions not heard before (did someone say “Indian raga meets Merengue”?).
Austerlitz is a scholar with a horn; he puts his research into practice. His “dark, voluble bass clarinet work” (Cadence Magazine) is intrinsic to his (sometimes multiphonic) voice. It is uncommonly smooth throughout the registers. If you like Eric Dolphy or Bob Mintzer you will love this. Austerlitz’s previous collaboration with Michael S. Harper, the poet Laureate of Rhode Island, is also on innova: Double Take: Jazz Poetry Conversations (innova 604)
“African American improvised music (also known as jazz) is an ‘arena’ of ‘word-consciousness,’ one peace of powerful sisterhood and brotherhood. I offer the creative fruit of my ethnomusicological journey as a universal communion.” Paul Austerlitz
[Austerlitz is] an accomplished bass clarinetist and free-blowing improviser….An intriguing musical journey.
– Jazz Times
[Austerlitz] combines [Afro-Cuban and Dominican/Haitian musical styles] with bebop jazz, European classicism, Indian ragas, traditional African drumming and even spoken word on this musical journey. The results are stunning. Austerlitz wields his instrument like Coltrane on “A Love Supreme” on “One Peace.” Meanwhile, the merengue/Bebop version of Bird’s “Ornithology” simply must be heard. In his book, Jazz Consciousness: Music, Race and Humanity, Austerlitz says that “while social boundaries are real, there is no boundary to humanity.” If only the rest of the world would listen to the truth in the music.
– Brad Walseth, Jazz Chicago
Though no stranger to Afro Caribbean music, I was rendered speechless by the power, beauty and communal nature of Austerlitz’ music.
– Thomas Pena, All About Jazz New York
[T]his five part (chapter) suite has many moments of bright and explorative playing with his empathetic ensemble … For his part, Austerlitz solos convincingly on the Coltrane-ish “One Peace,” as well as the Indian instrumented and meditative title piece. On the other side of the boulevard, Austerlitz is able to bebop with the best of him, as he displays uncanny alacrity on “Ornithology” … A successful sonic cornucopia is delivered here by Austerlitz, who will hopefully continue his beautiful Journey.
– George Harris, All About Jazz California
‘There is very little precedence for Journey, a work of striking newness and dazzling virtuosity, by the reeds player, Paul Austerlitz … This is an ambitious work of complex, symphonic proportions even though it features few instruments: reeds, percussion, piano, the bass violin and—this is what sets it apart—the human voice.
“Journey” is a fascinating addition to the symphony and is written in multiple meters as the music criss-crosses its way—like the exodus of the African Diaspora—through India, where the drone of the sitar blends with the talking drums of Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng. Nineteenth Century impressionistic modes collide with amorphous Indian ragas and African polyrhythm. The clarinet colors the musical canvas in several overdubbed incarnations. The resultant music is quite simply spectacular.
The musicians are masterful throughout, led by Austerlitz, who soars like a great bird with a reed and a thermal only to swoop and tumble at every turn with graceful abandon. His solo improvisations are brimful with fresh ideas. His intonation is masterly and his phrasing gentle and evocative. Austerlitz is the consummate technician, but whose virtuoso skills are put to perfect use with emotional readings of his work and in some cases the compositions of others.
This is a work of great mastery and importance. It is only a matter of time before it receives its just desserts.’
– Raul de Gama, Latin Jazz Network