Michael Byron is a composer who innovates in the Neo-Minimal, Radical Tonality zone in ways that sometimes suggest, and nicely so, a cross affiliation with Avant Jazz in its spiritual aspects, such as we have heard from mature Cecil Taylor and later John Coltrane, and then from the Minimal school later Terry Riley also, in its hypnotic quality. In this manner the new album of some five lively chamber works steps forward boldly and appealingly. It is a new one on Cold Blue Records, named Halcyon Days, Music for Marimbas, Xylophones, Vibraphones, Glockenspiels, Maracas and Pianos (Cold Blue Music CB0065).
Performances are championed with flair by William Winant and the William Winant Percussion Group, the Ray-Kallay Duo of four-hand piano performances and Lisa Moore on piano. Getting this music right takes persistence and spirit, and that is just what they do.
The first part of the program highlights some special music for mallets from the ’70s, with clusterings of notefulness in dense testificatory energetics rather than pulse, and nicely hovering over our listening selves. We hear with interest the two solo percussion works, from 1972 the tubular bells of “Drifting Music,” and the maracas and marimbas of the 1974 “Music of Every Night.”
The three movement “Music of Steady Light” (1978) gives us a spacious soundscape of twittering and expressive multimallet configurations. You should let this music wash over you while noting how it passes over like a virtual series of celestial weather forays, with a enchantingly expressive way about it.
“Starfields” (1974) creates a another hovering superstructure via four hand piano configurations. It bears scruitiny and repeated hearings.
Finally “Tender, Infinitely Tender” brings us to 2016 and a solo piano work that enchants wonderfully for a time again and then is gone like all music, stays in the air and then nowhere to be found as Eric Dolphy noted some time ago. It has that endless melody of a cosmic Coltranesque aura to my ears and I myself love to bask in it all throughout.
I recommend you give this one your ears if you respond to the sort of contemplative zone that Radical Tonality excels at. Listen, do. A milestone in the genre.