Liner notes for the CD The Great Divide, by Ken Aldcroft’s Convergence Ensemble.
Released in 2006 by Trio Records and Productions.
The Great Divide is the first recording by the Convergence Ensemble, and it is a very welcome one for those who have seen the band live. This group is composed of five musicians who have a great deal of experience making music together. Each of these players were members of other groups led by guitarist Ken Aldcroft when he brought them together into the current combination. Aldcroft, alto saxophonist Evan Shaw, trombonist Scott Thomson, bassist Wes Neal, and drummer Joe Sorbara have been rehearsing and performing as the Convergence Ensemble for over a year, and this recording is a documentation of their work so far.
The compositions heard on this disc represent just a small part of the musical materials gathered from Ken Aldcroft’s ongoing investigations into composition and improvisation. Over the past decade he has led a number of small ensembles and developed his own voice as an improviser, composer, and bandleader. The Great Divide brings together compositions from multiple creative ventures. “Mister, Mister,” “The Great Divide,” and “X Marks the Spot” were written for the Ken Aldcroft Group in 2004, and “From the Hart-Land” was composed in 2004 for the Ken Aldcroft Trio +1. The other pieces are reinventions of music originally written for the Ken Aldcroft Quartet to accompany two Buster Keaton silent films: “Retreat-Advance,” “A Refreshing Night,” “A Union Theme,” and “Hopelessly Lost, Helplessly Cold” were composed in 1999 as a soundtrack to The General; “Stuffed Turkey” and “Humble Home of John McKay” were composed in 2000 to accompany Our Hospitality.
The relationship between composition and improvisation is the central concern that informs the music here. The Convergence Ensemble has worked collectively to develop a high level of familiarity with Ken’s compositions, allowing for the structuring of the composed material in the moment of performance. As such, the music on this disc, like all improvised recordings, represents one moment in a larger music making process. Far from a final product, these performances are instead a snapshot of the possibilities that presented themselves to the musicians at the time of recording. As a listener, the performances on The Great Divide offer both the benefit of repeated hearings and the anticipation of hearing alternative approaches to the music should one have the good fortune to hear the group in concert.
The collective improvisatory language of this group exists at the intersections of the musical experiences of the players involved. The meeting of skills, musical vocabularies, and tastes of the individual players is what gives this ensemble its distinctive character. With the Convergence Ensemble one feels as if the possibilities opened up by this combination of musical personalities are unlimited.
Finally, this music functions as a dialogue, a convergence between the listener and the sounds captured on the disc. Each listener brings something different to a musical encounter, as we all interpret music in ways that reflect our personal experiences. The richness of the music on The Great Divide ensures that it will offer different meanings and convey diverse emotions to all who hear it. The Convergence Ensemble has presented us with music that asks us to join in the experience of music making, as we listen in on the conversation that took place between the musicians one day in January 2006. This disc rewards with repeated listening, as there is always something new to hear that we may have missed before. The next time the musicians play these compositions they will be different. If we invite the music on this disc into our ears, the next time we hear it we will be different too.
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