Every instrument has its limitations. Wind instruments can’t play traditional double stops. Pianists can’t crescendo through held notes. And much like a keyboard, the vibraphone’s equally-tempered octaves ignore the pitches between the pitches.
But to mallet percussionist, composer, and improviser Patricia Brennan, no tone is off limits. On her newest album More Touch (November 2022, Pyroclastic Records), she expands her instrumental catalog with a mixed bag of electronic pads and pedals, a means, she says, to realize those “impossible” sounds that only exist in her head. Brennan’s journey and approach draw on a lifetime of disparate, but ultimately related musical spheres — classical training, Afro-Cuban surroundings, and unconditional love of improvisation — placing her squarely in the avant-garde jazz-classical gray area inhabited by so many of New York’s finest improvisers.
The More Touch quartet takes a rare, percussion-heavy form. Most of the time, Brennan leads from a vibraphone outfitted with live electronic modifiers, occasionally switching to marimba for a deeper, more guttural sound. Drummer Marcus Gilmore provides an ornamented backbone from a large kit. For additional texture and nuance, percussionist Mauricio Herrera cycles through Latin drums and hand percussion: a few congas, a set of traditional Cuban batá drums, and various sound-effect instruments. Even Kim Cass, the bassist who rounds out the ensemble, brings a rhythmic sensitivity to rival any drummer’s, Brennan told me over chai lattes in a snug Park Slope cafe.
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