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Friday, March 3, 2023

Joseph Petric – Seen (Redshift Records)

By Gary Chapin

Being an accordion player, I will admit to a bias in trying to boost the free reed team when I can in any field of music. The accordion—in this case a chromatic button accordion with both stradella AND free bass set ups—is not unheard of in avant circles, but it’s still rare enough that its appearance is worthy of comment and its timbrel gifts still intrigue. Joseph Petric comes to us from the “contemporary classical” world, which, according to the liner notes, has an accordion tradition going back to the mid-20th Century. All but one of these pieces were commissioned by Petric himself

The disc opens with some sounds that might be described as idiomatic to the accordion, the deep bellow swell, and shifts into a place of knotty, jagged melody. Presently, the electronics begin doing there thing and the duo of Petric/Jaegar’s “Spirit Cloud” becomes absorbing.

One characteristic of this piece, and this entire disc, is that whatever else is going on, it’s fascinating. That may sound like damning with faint praise—"interesting”—but I don’t mean it that way, at all. To me a piece that both moves and, simultaneously makes me wonder, “How did he do that? What’s happening here?” is great. Curiosity is a positive emotion for me.

Norbert Palej provides the three-part title track of the disc, “SEEN,” an evocative consideration of miraculous visions. My first thought was that this piece sounded very traditional, though traditional for whom I couldn’t say. It sounds largely diatonic and gentle. The accompanying notes refer to the “ecclesiastical harmonies” which fits if your associations with ecclesiastical things is calm and comforting.

Petric’s comfort in electro-acoustic work is intriguing to me as a statement on the connection between technology and music. The accordion itself is quite the technology, an immensely clever collection of simple machines—levers, valves, springs, bellows—all of which have existed for centuries. The electro-acoustic excursions here range from room-filling lushness to narrow paths bordered by threateningly spikey vegetation. It’s immersive.

This is not from the usual Free Jazz Collective world, but if you like the kind of thing that FJC likes, then there’s a more than reasonable chance you’ll like the kind of thing Joseph Petric makes.