One of the more inventive collectives in improvisational music is The Space Between, comprised of Philip Gelb on shakuhachi, long time collaborator Dana Reason on piano, and legendary figure of the American avant garde art scene, composer and educator Pauline Oliveros, on her custom built just intonation accordion. On this date they are joined by veteran bassist Barre Phillips, whose is credited on over 100 albums, many for the German ECM label. These tracks were culled from a live recording of free improv before an audience at CNMAT in Berkeley, California, over two September evenings in 1998. This is a truly unusual instrumentation, yielding remarkable results. The ensemble uses timbre - rather than basic harmony and melodic ideas - as the main building block for composition and improvisation. This because they are working in different tuning systems: Pauline Oliveros' accordion is tuned to just intonation, Dana's piano is in European tuning, and the shakuhachi is a notoriously difficult instrument to play 'in tune' due to it's construction and playing technique. * 'One of the wonderful facets of free improvisation is that, unlike more formal music, practitioners aren't limited to certain instruments. 'Thus you have this unbridled session of stirring improv performed on shakuhachi or Japanese bamboo flute; accordion retuned with just intonation; minimalist piano and string bass. The background of the four musicians couldn't be more different either. Bay area shakuhachi player Philip Gelb, who brings a unique Occidental concept to his instrument, is as likely to collaborate with multi instrumentalist Joe McPhee, or interactive electronics composer Chris Brown as with koto master, Shoko Hikage. Accordionist Pauline Oliveros has been composing so-called serious music for 50 years and has a long history of creating electronic and minimalist works. 'Canadian born, Los Angeles-based Dana Reason works regularly with Oliveros and Gelb, as well as other explorers such as trombonist George Lewis, and is most interested in the byproducts of the piano that lie in between the black and white keys. American bassist Barre Phillips, who recorded a solo session as long ago as 1968, expatriated permanently to France around that time. Over the years he literally worked with everyone in avant jazz, improv and New music from saxophonist Archie Shepp to guitarist Derek Bailey. 'Simultaneously backdrop and foreground, the effort makes you want to begin again when the CD finishes. Perhaps it's because the 12 tunes are all instant compositions, recorded live on the spot by the four. Louder most of the time than one might figure, considering Oliveros' commitment to deep listening and minimalism, even the quietest passages feature the sort of aggression one associates with free jazz, despite any denials towards the music these four would probably proffer. 'Certainly all have been exposed to jazz, and Phillips has played it for a long time. Moreover like a bassist functioning in a jazz combo, the vigor of his long-lined pizzicato forays seems to be the fulcrum on which the compositions revolve. It's probably him, in fact, who adds the percussion-like underpinning on some of the tracks, Not that anything swings in a jazz sense, but the proceedings certainly move along at a powerful clip, lacking those awkward, prolonged silences that sometimes arrive in more self-conscious new music. 'Gelb, too, is a marvel. If you didn't know his implement of choice was the shakuhachi, from the evidence here you'd think it was the metal flute, the soprano saxophone or perhaps both. Capable of high-pitched, ethereal, overblowing asides and basso tones, he still makes it a point not to stand out from the ensemble, but to blend with the others. 'Banishing any thought of Lawrence Welk -- or for you veteran jazzbos Art Van Damme -- from her accordion association, Oliveros appears to have discovered the perfect musical outlet. Without abandoning it's traditional resonance she can make the squeeze box sound like a very large harmonica or a sideways, elastic piano. 'The only dilemma created by this style, though, is that Reason, the band's regular keyboardist, finds herself mostly confined to contributing single notes or the occasional quick run reminiscent of John Tilbury's work with AMM. 'As a group effort, these 62 minutes plus of creativity pass by like five, without, it seems, a bum note on disc. Overall, this product of two young virtuosi and two veteran tonal explorers as a quartet of unconventional instruments is memorable in it's audacity.' -Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly * 'The Space Between is Philip Gelb (shakuhachi) Pauline Oliveros (accordion) and Dana Reason (piano). Barre Phillips might be a guest, but the veteran bassist is a pivotal presence. The label's website refers to this date as 'free Improv', which shows what a broad approach to making music the term encompasses. This isn't free Improv of the European kind that developed out of jazz - though Phillips comes from that background. In this instance, it arises more from contemporary composition, and especially minimalism, as Pauline Oliveros' presence implies. 'This isn't the first time on disc that The Space Between have featured an additional improvisor from the jazz tradition: saxophonist Jon Raskin from the ROVA Quartet appeared on between/waves, released under Philip Gelb's name on Sparkling Beatnik in 1999. If anything, the results here are even more memorable. It's clear from the lively opening track, 'King Kong Passes Through The Gates Of Shaolin Temple And Contemplates Life', that theirs isn't going to be an entirely minimal, sparsely textured approach. The brief 'Do We Deserve Dubya?' understandably raises little enthusiasm for the Texas oilman, but on the long 'Incandescent Gesture' and elsewhere, Barre Phillips's pizzicato playing is implicated in the surges of energy. 'One of the joys of the album is found in the extraordinary collisions of timbre and tuning. On accordion, Oliveros's own systems of Just Intonation clash with Dana Reason's piano in European tuning, while Gelb's fluttering Japanese flute is hard to keep in tune. Yet the resulting tonal scrunches are delightful, and Barre Phillips's arco work merges imperceptably into Oliveros's accordion. The recording quality is superb, though I had to double take when I heard the crickets in the background - not a common sound in the Pennines any time of year.' -Andy Hamilton, The Wire * 'One of the interesting things about this CD is the meeting of two masters, Barre Phillips and Pauline Oliveros, more interesting is the group interaction and resulting music. At the surface it does look like an unlikely combination, but Barre has been able to successfully bridge less likely combinations (Evan Parker / Paul Bley & Lee Konitz / Derek Bailey) and Pauline has been involved in improvisation just as long, including writing 'outline, for flute, percussion, & string bass (an improvisation chart) (1963)', written for Bert and Nancy turetzky. Both Phil and Dana have also worked with Mr. Turetzky, who is, in my opinion, Barre's only living peer on the double bass. 'The music: Obviously, there is space, many talk about space, most give space by 'standing-around-waiting-to-solo'. The space in this music is created and placed, it's not an absence of sound. A good analogy for this could be the paintings of Cy Twombly or Piet Mondrian, you look at the painting and see space, but in the creation, they spent the most time applying the white paint! Listening is happening, also, but in a deeper level than usual (level 1: jump on each note and make an 'interesting' harmony), ideas are allowed to coexist, not always forced to conform. There are also many moments of ensemble unity but it's not limited to that. Parallels could be drawn with the work of Wadada Leo Smith, especially some of his work with Gunter Sommer and Peter Kowald, and the work of AMM, but mostly this stands on it's own. Another important thing is how much each player gives by stepping out of their usual style, while still holding on their identity. Most pianists would dominate this situation with 'western harmony', Dana finds her own space in the music with no trace of this kind of thinking. Phil has the ability to find the profound times for very shakuhachi-like sounds, pure sound ideas, and crystal-clear pitches. Barre has always played with incredible variety, and as bass player myself, I could write five times this much about him. A true pioneer, he has defiantly pushed far past his roots in the free jazz of the sixties, though that experience gives him a 'position of strength' to work from, even in less dense situations like this. Pauline has been an important and over looked figure in non-jazz improvisation. While I would never dispute the importance of jazz, she has proven that it is not necessary for improvisation. 'Free jazz' had to go to Europe to become 'free music'. Pauline found her own solutions much earlier. That said, some of her lines on this recording are more jazz-like than I have ever heard in her music. 'This is my favorite kind of music, a mix of paradox, tension, co-operation and different backgrounds brought together in a relaxed, unhurried way that sounds like nothing before it.' -Damon Smith * PHILIP GELB has been performing nationally and internationally as a soloist and in ensembles since 1995. Performance highlights include the World Shakuhachi Festival, Lincoln Center, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Mills College, Knitting Factory, Tiara Koto Concert Hall, Munster Neue Musik Festival and 2 appearances as guest soloist with the Seattle Creative Orchestra. His current projects include: The Space Between (trio with Pauline Oliveros -accordion; Dana Reason - piano), duets with interactive electronics composer, Chris Brown, a trio with violinist Carla Kihlstedt and cellist Hugh Livingston. Other musicians he frequently collaborates with are: koto master, Shoko Hikage, multi instrumentalist Joe McPhee, and synthesizer player Tim Perkis. PAULINE OLIVEROS' life as a composer, performer and humanitarian is about opening her own and others' sensibilities it the many facets of sound. Since the 1960's she has influenced American Music profoundly through her work with improvisation, meditation, electronic music, myth and ritual. Many credit her with being the founder of present day meditative music. All of Oliveros' work emphasizes musicianship, attention strategies, and improvisational skills. She has been celebrated worldwide. During the 1960's John Rockwell named her work Bye Bye Butterfly as one of the most significant of that decade. In the 70's she represented the U.S. at the World's Fair in Osaka, Japan; during the 80's she was honored with a retrospective at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., and the 1990's began with a letter of distinction from the American Music Center presented at Lincoln Center in New York. There is currently a plan for a global celebration of the 50th anniversary of her work in the year 2001. Oliveros work is available on more than 17 recordings produced by companies internationally. Canadian born pianist, composer and improvisor DANA REASON has performed at the California Institute for the Arts, Colorado University, Guelph Jazz Festival, Frau Musica (Nova) Cologne, San Francisco Jazz Festival, Beyond the Pink Festival, (LA), Knitting Factory (NYC), Music Gallery (Toronto), and Newfoundland Sound Symposium. Ms. Reason has been featured on National Public Radio, Radio Canada and has recorded for Music & Arts, Red Toucan, Deep Listening, Sparkling Beatnik and Ryokan labels. This past fall Musicworks magazine published a feature article titled The Piano Artistry of Dana Reaons by Dan Given. Ms. Reason is Ph.D candidate and scholarship recipient at the University of California San Diego where she studies with George E. Lewis and Anthony Davis. Her dissertation research is titled Playing like a Girl: Women Improvisors in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century: A Cross-Cultural Investigation into Musical Performativity. Ms. Reason is a freelance writer for the Twentieth Century Music, The Improvisor and Musicworks. Bassist, composer and improviser BARRE PHILLIPS was born in San Francisco in 1934, and has been a professional musician since 1960. He migrated to New York in 1962, then to Europe in 1967. Since 1972 he has lived in southern France. He has appeared on well over 100 albums, most, in recent years, for the German ECM label.