Convergence II: Liner Notes
In October 2015, Sándor Szabó travelled to the US to spend two weeks with me for recording sessions. During that time, we performed one live concert in Groton, Massachusetts, and one on-air live radio performance for WFMU radio in New York City. The remainder of our time was spent in the recording studio. In that two-week period, we recorded the albums Perspectives (2016; Greydisc) and Invocation (2017; Greydisc). In fact, there is still some unreleased duo material from these sessions.
Prior to Sándor's arrival in fall 2015, I asked Carl Clements if he'd be interested in a trio with Sándor when he was here. Carl has liked my duo work with Sándor, and was interested in doing a trio session. I then asked Sándor if he'd be interested in a trio with Carl. Sándor likes the works of Carl and I, and was also interested in a trio session. Hence, we blocked out one full studio day for the trio sessions.
On 29 October 2015, we recorded material for two albums; the first of which is Convergence I. The recording sessions involved various instrument voices. Sándor used his 16-string classical guitar. I used four guitars: 12-string soprano, 36-string Double Contraguitar, 30-string Contra-Alto, and 15-string Extended Classical guitar. Carl utilized soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, alto flute, and a range of bansuri flutes. Each combination of instruments made for differing environments, feelings, approaches, textures, and overall effect and impact.
Convergence I is comprised of pieces involving flutes: concert flute, alto flute, and bansuri flutes. These instruments orchestrated with Sándor's 16-string guitar and my various guitars, presented new textures and harmonic environments. It also brought a new challenge to each of us; for example, I had been recording and performing with Sándor for around 10 years at this point, and with Carl for 30 years; I was quite familiar with both artists. However, this was the first time recording with both artists in a trio setting, and this same sense of newness and discovery applied to Sándor and Carl as well. This freshness is palpable in every piece on this album.
I believe that the three of us forged new paths with these two albums. The blend of these instruments and voices created entirely new intricacies and textures. I am looking forward to our next trio recording sessions, to pick up where we left off, and to find further new directions.
- Kevin Kastning
I’m very pleased to be releasing these first trio recordings with Kevin
Kastning, Sandor Szabo, and myself. While I’ve been collaborating with Kevin for
many years, including five duo album releases together, I haven’t had the
opportunity to spend much time in person with Sandor. However, I feel that I’ve
gotten to know him in one of the deepest ways possible – through his music.
Before our first meeting, I had been hearing the music he and Kevin had done for
several years in their own duo recordings. In these tracks, I heard the music of
two powerfully original and accomplished guitarists blending into a seamlessly
spontaneous partnership. The interweaving textures they created resulted in a
sound that I felt I’d somehow imagined for years but had never been certain how
to realize. From the first time I heard it, while complete in itself, I hoped
I’d someday be able to add my own voice to this sonic texture. In their
recordings with percussionist Balasz Major, I could hear how fruitful the
addition of a third voice could be, and how Kevin and Sandor could adjust their
visions to accommodate another kindred spirit. Inevitably, adding a third
melodic voice introduces a new set of challenges, since the two guitars already
had the capacity for endlessly inventive interlinked melodic streams. While I
could hear our trio potential in my mind, exploring the possibilities remained
out of reach, since Kevin and I lived in the U.S. and Sandor lived in Hungary.
When Kevin informed me the Sandor would be visiting him in the U.S. to do some intensive duo recordings with him, we both realized that this could be a rare opportunity to bring our three voices together. One can never be certain whether a musical collaboration will be successful, even if all of the individuals are at a high level of musicianship. But given that subsets of this potential trio had already had very successful collaborations, there was good reason to be optimistic.
From the first notes we played together in the studio, it was clear that our optimism was justified. It was a pleasure to not just be listening to their guitar duo, but to be able to respond to their music in real time, adding my own voice to the mix. And as is inevitable with such musically aware improvisational composers as Kevin and Sandor, the music turned in a different direction. Improvisation has long been a central part of my musical life. However, many of the improvisational contexts I play in (such as jazz and Hindustani classical music) have predetermined stylistic and compositional elements – wonderful in their own way, but potentially limiting in terms of “allowable” musical directions. It is relatively rare to find one, not to mention two, kindred spirits with whom you are limited only by the interaction of the moment – which is ultimately no limitation at all, but an invitation to join a conversation that could never be spoken in words. Each of us came to the session with our own lifetimes of musical inspirations – each unique, but with sufficient overlap of vision and spirit to allow for deeply meaningful dialog.
Each of the musicians in this trio has a wide palette of possible instrumental colors. For this recording, we decided that I should focus on the particular spectrum represented by my flute playing, leaving my saxophones for a future recording. At first I had some hesitations about this, as tenor and soprano saxophone are such a major part of my musical voice, and I didn’t know if I’d be satisfied with the sonic potential only flutes. However, as we got deeper into exploring these tracks, I found that this limitation opened up an intriguing range of possibilities. On this recording, I play concert and alto silver flutes, as well as bansuri (North Indian reed) flutes. While similar in terms of timbre, each of these instruments offers a unique set of options in terms of range, nuances of color, and technical possibilities. The European-derived flutes (concert and alto) allow for more chromatic facility in technically complex passages. However, the North Indian bansuri allows for more fluid exploration of the spaces between the chromatic notes. Having studied Hindustani (North Indian) classical music on the bansuri for over thirty years, I’ve developed a deep appreciation of the voice-inspired exploration of the infinity between the half-steps that traditionally mark the accepted tonal boundaries in the European classical tradition. Jazz music, which I’ve played for over forty years, shares a similar passion for transgressing this and other pre-defined limitations, and both of these musical genres have been important inspirations for my broader musical explorations.
This recording is our first introduction of our trio conversations to the rest of the world. Having experienced it first-hand during its creation, I know that we’re offering something genuine and unique. When we played this, we were speaking from our souls, and I know that we understood the meaning expressed by each. It is my hope that if three of us can hear what was said, others will also be able find meaning in something that ultimately can’t be expressed with words. I only ask the listener to approach the music with fresh ears and few preconceptions, as we did when we sat down together in the studio. I’m hopeful that this will be just the first of many such collaborations.
- Carl Clements
Since I first became quite deeply involved in Oriental music many years ago, we planned with Kevin to make a kind of East/West project. In that project musically we wanted to find usable passages between the western polyphony and the Oriental modality. This is possible only if we both make compromises. My instruments could have been a fretless guitar, an esraj, and a guzheng. We cherished our plan for years waiting for the sign and the time when it should happen. In late 2015, Kevin organized a recording session for a trio with Carl Clements, the sax and flute player. The recordings went very well and there was a very special part of the session when Carl played bansuri and flutes. His Indian music studies on bansuri made a wonderful influence on his flute playing, too. The music we recorded was floating between modality and extended chromaticiscm with modern harmonic structures. For different reasons the recordings rested for almost five years and in the last few weeks we started to select tracks to make the first album. Listening back to the whole material where Carl played tenor and soprano sax, as well, the flute and bansuri recordings started to appear as a different dimension of our music. What we originally planned with Kevin happened: a spontaneous inner fusion between Oriental and western musics. I suggested Kevin to handle the bansuri/flute recordings separately as a special album. So this album became one of the first in an East/West fusion in our recording schedule and album releases.
- Sándor Szabó
© 2021 Greydisc Records / Suigeneria Music [BMI]