Evening With Mark Whitecage & Rozanne Levine
Houston TX, 21 June 2002
was fortunate to be in the path of two outstanding improvising artists
who were touring the country. Through arrangement with the Pauline
Oliveros Foundation, Mark Whitecage and wife Rozanne Levine performed
as a duo at the Proletariat, a new venue in the culturally rich Montrose
area of the city. Whitecage played clarinet, alto saxophone, and 1/2
alto clarinet; Levine explored the clarinet, alto clarinet, and bamboo
flute; and both artists manipulated percussion instruments and foot-controlled
electronics in a set that ranged from intricate and delicate musings
with ethereal overtones to combustible and emphatic outbursts of sheer
reed power. As one would expect, there was an innate sense of communication
between the two that allowed them to investigate complex areas while
always being responsive to the direction of the other.
electronics were used very sensibly to augment the natural acoustics.
Whitecage and Levine created echoes and retorts to their own statements,
which provided a harmonic background or an extra bit of reverberant
ambiance in an already live room. Whitecage's solos were impeccably
constructed in upwardly spiraling rings of sound. His improvisations
rose, circled, and hung in the air. The complementary filaments of
color conjured up by Levine established contrasting tonality (alto
clarinet vs. clarinet, clarinet vs. alto saxophone, etc.) to enhance
the interrelationships of the horns. Her mystical offering on bamboo
flute built around the electronic restatement of Whitecage's immediately
preceding phrases was an enchanting example of her ability to relate
to the challenge of the moment.
their second set, Whitecage and Levine performed with Houston's exciting
trombonist Dave Dove and Austin's highly creative drummer Chris Cogburn.
Whitecage and Levine had never met either musician before this tour,
and although Cogburn had joined them in performance the night before
in Austin, it was their first exposure to the trombonist. Musicians
somehow do not find this an obstacle, and the quartet proceeded to
make challenging and authoritative music as though they were a working
band. Taking a cue from a stimulating alto solo by Whitecage, Dove
used long, drawn notes and several mutes to create a meditative,
sensitive ambiance. His soloing developed forcefulness and power,
eventually erupting into a demonstration of improvised low-toned
splendor. Dove frequently retreated into a serene world where he
and Cogburn exchanged quiet offerings, which encouraged the others
to continue establishing the séance mode. Just as quickly, they would all gain momentum
and sing out in boisterous union.
It was intriguing to see how seamlessly these musicians blended and
the ease and facility with which they interacted. They fed off of
each other's ideas and produced music with startling brawn at one
moment and beauty at another. Levine interjected high-pitched clarinet
riffs while the team built the set systematically into a haven for
improvisers. Cogburn was extensively visual in his percussion choices.
He used cups, triangles, and an assortment of small implements to
accent the songs, but he also explored his more volatile nature by
transforming himself into a robust, passionate drummer. At times,
Whitecage would create a circus atmosphere by playing a simple ditty,
which inspired the band to take off into an unpredictable improvised
realm of total freeform sound.
Both sets were artistically satisfying to the small but dedicated
crowd who seemed to thrive on hearing instantly composed music.
They had their fill from Whitecage, Levine, Dove, and Cogburn.