RETRO: John Fitz Rogers, 'Transit' feat. Michael Nicollela (Gale Recordings)
Upon a cursory listening only, composer and decorated University of South Carolina professor John Fitz Rogers' Gale Recordings release Transit seems to owe more to Emerson, Lake and Palmer than Varèse, Ligeti or Nancarrow. Nonetheless, after acquiring the composer's score, through-composed to near fault, it's quite obvious that Transit, as a completely notated work of art, does indeed exist in a state of impassioned, yet precise flux.
And what an incredible state of flux it is. Consisting of 11 sections arranged in two parts, the piece is a 44-minute cumulative push forward replete with airy flute patches, multiple mensuration cannons, biting sawtooth waves, dense contrapuntal scoring, convincingly synthesized Latin percussion, irrational tempi indications, and, of course, amazing guitar work - both written and improvised - by longtime JFR collaborator, Michael Nicollela.
And while it is certainly difficult to ascertain the musical milieu in which Transit best resides (a characteristic that has baffled and intrigued the likes of the New York Times, 20th Century Guitar and Home Theater HiFi), I doubt that JFR would want it any other way. Exquisitely mastered in the basement of that other USC's School of Music by local engineering and Grammy-winning treasure Jeff Francis, this record is a veritable essay in modern studio techniques. The sheer sonic experience itself, sans score, is quite the one to savor.
Three long years, numerous hours of compositional toil, and ridiculously massive strands of binary code later, JFR, MN and Gale have altogether produced an exciting, solid record that not only rewards repeated listenings, but remains a high-water mark in Prof. Rogers' ever-extending catalog. But perhaps more importantly, with the release of Transit, John Fitz Rogers certainly seems to have successfully shed the last remaining vestiges of his Ivy League musical upbringing - well, at least most of it, anyways.
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