New York City Jazz Record

New York City Jazz Record March 2024
Last Calls
AMM (Matchless)
by Marc Medwin

“What has been your overall view...” drones the disembodied voice coming over guitarist Keith rowe’s radio. It’s a moment of aMM-style synchronicity twelve minutes into the long-standing aggregate’s final performance. It’s one that somehow speaks to histories incorporated into one of the disparate and spontaneous “musical” frames rowe (who turns 84 this month) and Eddie Prévost have constructed over the course of aMM’s nearly six decades. Last Calls was the final event of percussionist Prévost’s “Making a Journey to a Bright Nowhere”, his 80th birthday series in July 2022 at café Oto (long-standing AMM pianist John Tilbury was advised not to participate for medical reasons).
Those uninitiated will experience an extraordinary web of sonic references informing the 53-minute aMM duo set, which encompasses the intersection of sounds continuously blurring the boundaries of recognition: traditional Japanese music sharing Protean spaces with what sounds like distorted sine tones, and bowed strings and various other samples courtesy of rowe’s ever-evolving sonic palette. Those in the know will hear familiar signifiers, including Prévost’s bowed gong and cymbals alongside rowe’s cultural templates, such as recordings of Purcell’s Funeral Music for Queen Mary and Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde prelude, which lend poignancy to the evolving texture. We even hear Tilbury’s beautifully calm pianism, iridescent tones and chords in symbiosis, courtesy of rowe’s technological machinations. Tilbury also contributes a gorgeously recorded solo as a post-script, not to mention liner notes culled from chronologically disparate documents that shed light both on his biography and on aMM’s modus operandi.
This particular aMM performance breathes luminosity with long tones predominating. It was this characteristic that separated the group from its free-improvisation colleagues in the mid ’60s, and although tonal sustain looms large here, it is joined by so many other timbres typifying aMM’s long and mutable history. The music undulates patiently and gathers layers of density only to relinquish it in the end, neither succumbing to nor embracing a final silence. It simply happens, and like a fragment of speech or a tone rising and returning to the space birthing it, there is something achingly transparent in the action/non-action duality that has defined the group and bids it farewell.