American trombonist George Lewis’ three-part Creative Construction Set™ (CCS) for Berlin’s Splitter Orchestra (SO) is an organic recasting of ideas first advanced by the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians’ (ACCM) sextet the Creative Construction Company (CCC). The essence of this performance is how this mixture of improvisation and composition can be expressed flexibly by two dozen players.
This CCC reconstitution removes lingering solo ostentation with group assemblages. Brief interjections from reeds, brass, strings, percussion, keyboards, and electronic processing augment the efforts. With each track layered and blended in a related design, deciding on the best is futile. Each has certain outstanding features. Creative Construction Set™ #3 unfolds like a nature-adventure novel with disassociated horn timbres and dial-twisted static fighting for supremacy amidst aviary cries and animal-like grunts. Melodic duets for clavinet and strings and, later, honking saxophones battling with percussion, lead to a vociferous crescendo, with a single guitar pluck signalling the gentling downturn. Creative Construction Set™ #2 sounds like crackles and whistles of signals from a distant planet whose inhabitants issue tuba blasts and cello-string twangs. Creative Construction Set™ #1—performed at the mid-point, oddly—displays the most contrast, with the narrative following hairpin turns that combine short-wave-radio-like tuning, buzzing, piano glissandi, brass-plunger ejaculations, yelping horn-snores, string slashes and wood-and-metal clicks, with turntable-sourced human voice and animal cries weaving in and out of aural focus. Attaining a crescendo of what initially sounds like mere clamour, the piece finally reaches polyphonic connection without negating individual contributions.
The key to appreciating this CD is noting how well, singly or as a group, the players interpret Lewis’ outlines. Cohesion is secondary to creativity. But this augurs well for future performances of this segmented epic.