by Joe Tangari
Canadian pianist Dana reason releases albums as a leader only occasionally; it’s been three years since her last one, but the silence has been productive. She has a lot to say on Angle of Vision, and in bassist Glen Moore and drummer Peter Valsamis, she’s chosen collaborators who are able to answer with exactly the right phrases to bring out the best in her playing.
She’s also brought some of the silence of the last three years with her to the studio. Reason’s original compositions, which consitute most of the album, are largely delicate and contemplative. “Unmarked” and the title track are well-calibrated indoor listening for cold, snowy days, while “Moments With Clara,” her rewrite of Clara Schumann’s “Drie Romanzen Opus 21,” is crystalline and seems to mourn the 19th-century composer-pianist’s relative obscurity.
Reason has other gears, “Paris Tango” is a playfully rhythmic piece that delivers on its title by skillfully blending the beat of tango with the airy feel of musette quoting Astor Piazzolla in its fluttering melody. “Play Ball” bounces through its verses, flits lightly through dizzying double stops and rippling cadenzas, and generally show Reason to be fleet-fingered and naturally melodic. As piano trio records go, Angle of Vision, is comfortably traditional (it would sit well on a shelf between Bill Evans and Vince Guararldi), but Reason’s voice as a composer and instrumentalist is firmly her own, and well worth listening to.
by Michael Boyce
The Dana Reason Trio’s recent Angle of Vision Tour performance in Bellingham, Washington consisted mostly of new material, which they were preparing to record a couple of days later at Wild Rose Artists’ Studio in Oregon.
Dana Reason has an accomplished background as both a classical and avant-garde composer and pianist, working and recording with such musicians as Cecil Taylor, Pauline Oliveros, George E. Lewis, Lilse Ellis and Joelle Leandre. Reason has played in the past in a variety of configurations, some of which have been in a more abstract, experimental vein, but she’s also played in the context of a gypsy swing orchestra and comping for a jazz chanteuse. This new Trio, however, presented her work in a unique way. Her composition and performance have evolved to embrace the full spectrum of her diverse background, resulting in a hybrid of styles including East Coast/West Coast jazz, Cuban music, classical music from the Romantic period, world music, and contemporary classical avant-garde music. On paper, this might seem odd or difficult to manage, but it sounded quite alluring. This was not the sort of music that only a musician could understand, and was lush, rich, romantic and complex; evincing a delicate balance between musicality and artistic conception. READ MORE
by Steve Smith
Profiling the composer, improviser and teacher Pauline Oliveros for The New York Times was an incredible privilege; the only problem is that it feels like I barely scratched the surface of everything we covered in a long, generous conversation… When I originally conceived this article, I’d intended to include reflections from Oliveros’s associates, protégés and students. That didn’t work out in the end, but I’m very pleased to be able to offer, as a Night After Night exclusive bonus track, some insights from Dana Reason, a Canadian-born pianist, composer, improviser and educator based in Corvallis, Oregon. Reason is the director of Popular Music Studies at Oregon State University, and has released 11 albums. From 1998 to 2003, she and Oliveros collaborated in a wonderful trio, The Space Between, which also included the superb shakuhachi player Philip Gelb. Reason will be performing at the Stone on August 28 at 10pm as part of Oliveros’s series.
Night After Night: When and how did you first come to work with Pauline Oliveros?
Dana Reason: I heard Oliveros play the first Bang on a Can festival in NYC when I was 18 years old. The live performance of Sonic Meditations had a profound effect on me. Several years later, I was performing at the Newfoundland Sound Symposium and Oliveros was the featured composer in residence. She conducted several workshops that I attended and I introduced myself to her. In 1995, I went out to Mills College to study composition. In 1996, Oliveros was the Darius Milhaud chair and I had the tremendous fortune of studying composition with her.
After Mills, Oliveros, Philip Gelb (shakuhachi player and improviser) and I formed The Space Between – a trio that literally dealt with the huge tuning gaps between 3 unlikely musical suspects: a just-tuned accordion, a bamboo flute, and a well-tempered piano.
We performed various concerts and lectures (Stanford, RPI, Roulette, U of Colorado, etc.) and would often demonstrate a scale played in “unison” by the trio. The sound was quite thick and cluster-like but intriguing (full of possibilities). The idea with the trio was to place timbre as the focal point for the ensemble. The works were textural, sonically rich and expressive. I would often refrain from playing the piano with conventional fare and would seek alternate sound sources from the body, and inside of the piano. Our work together culminated in 4 CD recordings. Each recording featuring a fourth guest performer such as French bassist Joëlle Léandre, bassist Barre Philips, saxophonist Jon Raskin (from Rova) and the late Matt Sperry on bass. All the albums were concert recordings headed up by David Wessel at CNMAT at UC Berkeley. READ MORE
CD REVIEW by Kirk Silsbee
Add the name of Canadian Dana Reason to the front ranks of improvising pianists. Her attack has many gradations of firmness and degrees of shading. More importantly, though these pieces appear to be pulled out of the air, they often have a compositional contour, with beginnings, middles and conclusions. Like a good basketball player, Reason can see the entire playing field when she brings the ball down the court. She knows where to move and where to put the ball. Her interaction with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer John Heward shows a pianist who knows when to go with the rhythm, when to push back, and when to lay out.
The temptation would be to lump her in with Cecil Taylor and any number of his acolytes. Reason’s piano figures are nowhere near as dense as Taylor’s in the up-tempo maelstrom passages, like her “Transition” and “Let’s Talk.” She can play hard, to be sure, but she doesn’t bang the keyboard or throw forearm clusters. Even on a fast piece, when she’s hammering percussively, there’s a certain amount of articulation going on. Reason’s lyrical turns show a sense of programming and her crystalline, single note interlude in “Revealed” brings to mind Paul Bley’s better treble searching.
Duvall does a yeoman’s job—supplying strong pizzicato underpinning and connective tissue. His furious plucking on “Moment’s Notice” (a Trio original, not the Coltrane chestnut) matches her high-pitched networks of notes. Perhaps because of Duvall’s strength we don’t hear a lot from Reason’s left hand. She flirts with the song form and it would be nice to hear some sustained melody, if not an occasional standard, from Reason.
Hewerd is a listening drummer, responding to the others with an admirable grasp of the appropriate. His spare tones dot the soundscape on “Open Spaces” and the propulsion elsewhere mark him as a well-rounded player. Since this worthy collection was recorded in 2004, it’s past time for an update from this trio.