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fragile 04:20
happening 05:30
no answer 04:32


The improvising trio of bassist James Ilgenfritz, drummer Brian Chase, and esoteric woodwind specialist Robbie Lee present a 40-minute set of diverse, meditative, and often overtly expressive improvised performances. Centered on the Just Intonation experiments of Brian Chase’s “happening” and James Ilgenfritz’s unique Just Intonation scordatura on “no answer,” the album constantly fulfills and thwarts expectation. The trio’s collective vocabularies blend lowercase abstraction, contemplative jazz musings, and contemporary classical chamber music: A freedom that readily embraces clear allusions to the familiar.

In addition to the members’ diverse work as solo artists and in various groups, the trio has performed around New York City at venues like The Stone, as well as Rhizome in Washington, DC and the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh (where the group also lectured to composition graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University. In December the group will present a hybrid live/virtual concert for the third semi-annual Infrequent Seams Streamfest.

Liner Notes:

What is the identity of something that is already gone the moment it
exists? Language serves to make something change position, on some metaphysical plane: to talk about a thing or event is to give it some conceptual embodiment – regardless of whether its material essence is at hand. This may be the elephant in the room, or Schrödinger’s Cat. If things change position only in our minds, they have still changed positions, if we think of the thing itself, and our thoughts about the thing, as somehow connected and occupying space.

Presence or absence can be easy or hard to think about, depending on what’s included or excluded. All things take some metaphysical form before they happen, and also after (let’s also call people and events “things” for now).

Some amount of dialog will emerge when a number of individuals get together and start doing something, even with minimal consensus on what is going to happen. Any three people will bring their respective vocabularies to a situation – not specifically language or sound, but perhaps body language, or a color scheme (or maybe they come equipped only with their personal problems?). Regardless, with those materials, those three people will find a way to cooperate (whether it feels like something we’d want to call cooperation is, of course, not guaranteed).

There might be talk about strategies pertaining to what happens; often any discourse or conversation might in fact seem quite unrelated. This type of exchange can lead to the most engaging/coherent music, and this paradox only serves to cast a greater air of mystery onto the situation where people make something out of nothing.

It’s helpful to consider the relationship between musical improvisation and other human behaviors – dancing, cooking, theater, musical composition, local or global politics, literature, sports, social or global ecology… in contrast to situations with a clear set of limitations and parameters, the situations sought by improvisers are often more likely to develop from these more disparate aspects of the human condition than they are from specifics of the music itself.

Certain types of improvisation, musical or otherwise, leave more to
chance, or intuition, than others. The level of external structure
informing one’s internal decisions can vary drastically in different
situations. In musical improvisation, that which goes unspoken is
often the single most essential component of success, even when
“success” totally evades definition.

We rarely find words that are adequate to express what’s most valuable about any type of experience in life; and perhaps that’s what motivates us to try. The music made by this trio has evolved out of the situations in which we’ve found ourselves, and those situations and experiences are embedded in what’s created.

One of my favorite stories as a child was about a group of kids who
get a refrigerator box, and with their potent imaginations, develop a
long string of fantastic adventures – reshaping the box, decorating
it, and even working with it after rain has reduced it to mush. This
recording brings this story back to my mind, because the music we
played is like a series of adventures derived from having a big empty
box and deciding what that box could be. It’s much more engaging than if the box already WAS something. -James Ilgenfritz


released November 5, 2021

James Ilgenfritz – Contrabass
Brian Chase – Drumset
Robbie Lee – Saxophones, Recorders, Flutes, Electronics

Recorded by Sam Owens at Figure Eight Recording
Mixed by Robbie Lee
Mastered by Elliott Sharp at Studio ZOaR
Design by Robbie Lee
Cover photo by James Ilgenfritz
Band photo by Federico Garcia De Castro


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James Ilgenfritz, Brian Chase, Robbie Lee New York, New York

A collective trio of improvisers based in Brooklyn NY, Featuring James Ilgenfritz, Brian Chase, and Robbie Lee. Their collective vocabularies blend lowercase abstraction, contemplative jazz musings, and contemporary classical chamber music.

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