Arthur Russell, amplified cello and voice; Bill Ruyle, tabla, marimba; Peter Zummo, trombone; Rik Albani, trumpet; Guy Klucevsek, accordion; Mustafa Ahmed, percussion.
With accuracy and humor, Peter Zummo (born 1948) often describes his unique music as “minimalism plus a whole lot more.” He is an important exponent of the American contemporary classical tradition whose compositions explore the methodologies of not just minimalism, but also jazz, world music, and rock, while seeking to create freedom in ensemble situations. Zummo’s realization of the contemporary urge to make music that behaves like “Nature in its manner of operation” (John Cage) is to encourage spontaneous, individual decisions within a self-structuring, self-negotiating group of performers. His scores provide unique strategies (such as a “matrix of overlapping systems,” freely modulating repetition rates, etc.) and materials for achieving that aim.
Song IV (1985), a trio version of the final song from the four-song suite composed for the Trisha Brown Dance Company’s Lateral Pass, is a continuous tabla-and-amplified-cello groove with trombone (with voice multiphonics) and vocal (Russell) melodies and harmonies.
Instruments (1980) is a composition in seven movements for duet, trio and quartet. Short phrases based on intervallic jumps are repeated at individual repetition rates; the ensemble listens for a unison playing of the phrase, and reverses the phrase at that moment. Different notes sound together in unplanned ways, resulting in combination (bass) tones.
The complete version of Lateral Pass (1985) makes its first appearance on disc and features a previously unissued performance of Song IV for quintet.
Zummo with an X is an essential document for anyone interested in the multifaceted evolution of American experimental music, especially in the vibrant downtown New York scene of the 1970s and ’80s.