"Ether Ore" CD/DVD - Greg Howard

The subtitle on Ether Ore reads "Live Sonic Expeditions on the Chapman Stick" and, indeed, this record provides the listener with a collection of concert improvisations performed from October, 2003 to December, 2004. Greg alternates between 10-string Bari Melody and Matched Reciprocal Grand Stick, through his live effects rig, using no synthesizers, overdubs or "static" looping devices. 

The recordings themselves are spectacular, with a clarity that is better than a lot of studio recordings, but the music is where it's at. Ether Ore opens with the beautiful and spacey "The First Day" and then moves into the title track, which starts off as ambient as the opener but then quickly makes it's way down Howard's signature avenue of twists and turns carrying the listener from the ambient to the rhythmic to the nasty along with everything in between. The tracks range from short textural vignettes, like the tribute tracks "Tim was Here" echoing Tim Reynolds's delay-based groove jams, and the pseudo-loopy "Snow Falling on Eno," to the 25-minute+ "Freedom of Expansion," The variety is stylistic as well as sonic, as Jim Reilly writes in his liner notes, "just when I think I'm starting to think I know where Greg is going he grabs me by the ear and takes me somewhere else." 

The audio disc is only the beginning of what Ether Ore has to offer, though. As an added bonus, the package includes a live DVD featuring a Dan Chapman video of yet another Howard improv entitled "Big Bang #4965." This piece was recorded at the 2003 World Stick Seminar in San Jose and offers the viewer the visual that comes along with a Howard performance. That alone is worth the price of admission and a "must see" for Stick player and non Stick player alike.


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