The Focus Quintet | 1-8 in 1

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1-8 in 1

by The Focus Quintet

The Focus Quintet works in the undefined area between free jazz and art song. Brought together at the 2001 Big Sur Experimental Music Festival. "Highly disciplined improvising produces a richly rewarding; gentle evocations of a world apart." --The Wire
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Dedicated
7:16 album only
2. Foreward
5:23 album only
3. Acknowledgements
6:46 album only
4. Contents
4:20 album only
5. List of Plates
8:35 album only
6. Introduction
10:04 album only
7. Body
9:03 album only
8. Index
4:29 album only


Album Notes
Brought together initially at the 2001 Big Sur Experimental Music Festival, these five friends from the East and West coasts have since collaborated on many projects in various configurations: Chris Forsyth and Ernesto Diaz-Infante's longstanding duo collaboration has resulted in three CD releases, a European tour, and an upcoming major American tour; Dan DeChellis and Jeff Arnal recorded a well-received duo CD for Sachimay Records; and Anita DeChellis, Arnal, Forsyth, and Diaz-Infante all contributed their talents to Rev.99's latest recording on Pax, the controversial Everything Changed After 7-11.

Now these musicians have joined forces to produce 1-8 in 1, an album that builds on their individual strengths: a strong sense of form and composition, an ability to listen and move within the flow of the music, and an intuitive playing ability that focuses on timbre, color, and texture.

Critical praise for the members of Focus Quintet:

> Jeff Arnal
"...Arnal's sweeping fills and odd-metered beats provide the listener with a potpourri of harmonious interludes and raw yet powerful improv." - Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz

> Ernesto Diaz-Infante
"...Diaz-Infante breaks down the creative process into its most basic elements of man and instrument." - Scott Menhinick, Signal to Noise

> Dan DeChellis
"Untroubled by the harmonic underpinning of jazz, DeChellis is following an entirely different route" - Richard Cochrane, Musings

> Anita DeChellis
"Anita DeChellis bridges free jazz and art song.... [with an] approach informed more by Pauline Oliveros than William Parker.... Improv tends to highlight the indefinable quality, tangentially related to musicianship, called "musicality." - David Krasnow, The Village Voice

> Chris Forsyth
"Guitarist Chris Forsyth has been an illuminating presence on the NYC free rock scene for the past couple of years." --The WIRE, March 2001



to write a review

Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews

it’s a tight and well-adjusted bunch that converged for these sessions.
This constellation of musicians first joined forces at The Big Sur Experimental Music Festival in 2001, but if you break the crew up into variational groupings is clear that there have been earlier collaborations. Diaz-Infante and Forsyth have made some very successful recordings together, and of course tours, both domestically and in Europe. Dan DeChellis and Arnold have already recorded for Sachimay, and all of The Focus Quintet except Dan DeChellis participated on Rev99’s latest and most controversial CD; Everything Changed After 7-11. This means that it’s a tight and well-adjusted bunch that converged for these sessions.

DEDICATED rises in a mist of crackling elementary particles; sharp grains of sand in a cloud of dust, electrically charged, giving off sparks that pinch your skin in little dots of pain… and out of the timbral drone of some string shimmering like a bleak horizon deep inside the soundscape a voice evolves, caressing, fondling, Japanese-like, in wide strokes of human Eastern warmth… and the music vibrates in crumpling static, above which the female voice swirls in slow, graceful motions, like a bird rising out of ashes, like beauty rising out of pain, like ice-cream in the dentist’s waiting room, the sound of the drills seeping out through the cracks in the door…

Further into the music deeper murmurs broaden the timbres, and some few erratic sounds also pass, as the piano enters and drops blue glass beads in sparse distributions through the soaring sound. The sensation gets louder, closer, more urgent – but the atmosphere of otherworldliness doesn’t lift; the druidity remains until the end – and I only wish I could have this piece extended into a full-length CD; it is worthy of it!

FOREWARD starts out as something very Cageish: small crumplings, some dotted, random sounding piano chords… and a voice as out of something Cathy Berberian did, you know, that kind of new music aura, which lends properties not only from Cage but from guys like Luigi Nono too, and other composers who breathed heavily in the 1950s and –60s. In this light this is a very traditional piece; avantgardistically traditional, if that pairing of words is possible… You know what I mean anyway.
Later in the short piece the voice hovers along the line of a bulging synthesizer drone, or it could be some percussion, like a tam tam or a gong, worked with a felt-tipped club of sorts. It gets meditative, still, tilting towards futures with misty mountains and hot tea…

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS introduces itself with distant fire engines rushing by a mile off. It gives me the impression of someone sitting in back of the house in a suburban area in the morning by the pool, a Sunday morning, enjoying the quiet and the stillness; not even a chirping bird – but the fire engine rushes down a street far off… and then the music kicks in, in a duet of crumpling paper and rattling house wares. Piano moves in, electric guitar and the imaginative voice of Anita DeChellis.
This piece is a bit sprawling and straggly, in the positive sense of the words. The singer even happens to sound a bit like Björk here and there, but also borders on – or even enters – the sound poetic idiom. Her wheezing mouth sounds remind me of some of Stockhausen’s performance practices.
The voice tickles and meows its way through piles of newspapers, the piano explodes at certain intervals, a string is rubbed like in works by Iancu Dumitrescu, and the piano gets absentminded as the voice moves up in a Meredith Monk Our Lady of Late fashion, everything oozing out on some sparse guitar and piano inklings…

CONTENTS; an underbrush of little sound events around an old mound somewhere in a rural setting; a priestess of unspecified forces conjuring up the spirits of forefathers in her peculiar, shrill voice, as the instruments bend and sag around her, like a crowd of dwarfs dancing crookedly around their beautiful Queen Mary (she's my friend...) or Queen Jane (won't you come see me...). Perhaps we’re at a site of some forlorn British travelers; self-inflicted outcasts; a shadowy projection of hippie ideologies long since depraved and sunk into the abyss of blind alleys down the lives of post-Woodstock strays… a long ways from the parameters and arithmetic of banks and malls…

LIST OF PLATES sprinkles Debussyan piano spurts into a space centered in a child-woman, cross-legged in her on midst, where the center of the Universe falls in on itself in countless purifications. Yes, there is something of a Cherokee tepee purification ceremony inside this piece, where the concentration is absolute, yet absentminded in that hypnotic way that puts the mind in unmeddled touch with the sources of power at the bottom of matter, the bottom of spirit; equal properties of existence.
I can feel a sort of childish - i.e. direct, unabashed, true, original – investigation going on in this piece, and perhaps this is at the heart of all really good, intuitive musical or existential improvisation.
The music that comes out of this here meeting is marvelous, achieving sublime expressions that convey musical ingenuity as well as a spiritual low-energy fire, which glows and crackles just below the skin of the music.

INTRODUCTION rolls minuscule pebbles into a room with crisscrossing wires that whine and squeak out of all kinds of angles… and it’s a bike repair shop afternoon meditation, the guys sitting down, looking hard into themselves in the heavy smell of rubber and lubricants, oil and grease… and the tools hang solemnly from their hooks on the walls, the biker paraphernalia readily available for asphalt hungering sportsmen in pointed helmets and black tights…
A rumble descends like a deafening infra cloud over the participants in the repair shop, obscuring the goings-on, but the voice that whines in time with the spokes and the wheels starts mumbling intimately to itself, around itself, spiraling inside the infracloud, and the bike repair shop transforms into a cache of vertical thoughts through the jumble of wires, like in a chaotic piano body, strings and screws under tight Cageian preparation.
I seldom hear music that is so infernally inward and absentmindedly introspective and meditative as this, and it must have come about through some kind of collective intuition. This is not something you sit down and calculate, at least not into the detail of the structure; it comes out of the musical moment. Splendid!

Chris Forsyth

BODY starts so gradually that I first though there was something the matter with the equipment. However, it soars into view like the bleak winter’s day outside my Scandinavian window, the music like a transparent layer of frost on the apple trees in the garden.
This piece introduces an unusually modal backdrop of church-like synthesizer sounds, painting subdued layers of brown and ochre as Anita DeChellis uses the lighter colors of her vocal palette, the voice moving in light, elegant gestures as the coin tumbles and rolls on the table and the seven dwarfs rustle about in their tool shed, achieving who knows what kind of fairytale results in the middle of secret life…
The combination here of soft, withheld timbral successions out of the synthesizer, the subtle gestures of DeChellis’ vocals, the dropping and spinning of coins and the more harsh, wood-like or cardboard-like activities bestows a peculiar, close-miked enchantment or spell on the duration of the work, keeping the listener glued to the emerging sounds!

INDEX concludes the CD. It tingles and whispers, giving me visions of a country-girl performing some illicit act out in the barn, moving cautiously among the warm bodies of resting cows, carrying a pail, hand milking without permission in the middle of a rural night… in some poverty-stricken 19th century country days.
The barnyard cat stares intensely at her from its hiding place. The girl is a point of excitement in this restful cow night under twinkling stars… and she hushes the cattle to remain still… the hens cackling silently behind the wall…

Frank Rubolino, One Final Note

This recording is for contemplative souls seeking a higher order through the pat
Anita Dechellis turns her soprano voice into an instrument on this ethereal recording that features the muted acoustic guitar atonality of Ernesto Diaz-Infante, electric guitar drone from Chris Forsyth, stark piano tracings from Dan Dechellis, and subdued percussion from Jeff Arnal. Within this metaphysical world of tonal sterility, these musicians sink deeply into an introspective haze where notes hang in a heavy atmosphere, and the movements often dissolve with abrupt twists and turns. Anita Dechellis sings at an ultra-slow pace, encouraging the others to interject short sound spurts covered in subdued pastel colors. The music reaches layers of extreme quietude, but like an awakening giant, it begins to scamper about, producing an irregular heartbeat of sudden bursts of sound before retreating to the depths of the subconscious. The material on this program was created as a collective endeavor, with all five musicians discovering new sound inspirations as the pieces unfold.
Diaz-Infante employs his noted scratching and scrapping techniques to coax all manner of unusual sound from his guitar. He has been known to make music from the sound of crackling wood, and there is the sensation here that it is occurring at varying points. The near-abrasive tones become a backdrop for the mystical voicing of Anita Dechellis and the stealthy improvisations from the others. Dan Dechellis cautiously explores the piano keys, expanding the concept of pensive moodiness that often accompanied the playing of Paul Bley. Static electric guitar sounds creep into the mist, while the drums establish an asymmetrical pulse line. Most of all, the music conveys a sense of peace and tranquility, even with the occasional outbursts of rawness. This recording is for contemplative souls seeking a higher order through the pathways of absolute sound. The key to the mystery is internal.

Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations

An enjoyable set and yet another challenging listen.
Having soaked my ears in March, I moved directly on to another recent project involving Ernesto and Chris. 1-8 in 1 by The Focus Quintet features the duo playing in a similar style with the addition of Anita Dechellis on voice, Dan Dechellis on keyboard and piano, and Jeff Arnal on percussion. Like March, this is a sparse work, each instrument and voice making carefully considered contributions to the whole. Anita sings in a variety of styles that are both haunting and angelic. At times it has a semi-operatic quality and at others it's almost like a strange form of scat. And as you might expect the role of the voice is equal to the musicians rather than "fronting" them.

Sounds and their resulting tone and timbre are of paramount importance as is each knock and bang of percussion. Sometimes the performance space is quiet, making each sound from an instrument or voice distinct. At others a pulsating drone will create an imposing presence which the musicians are challenged to form an alliance with. The electronic wave on "Introduction" is mind-numbing while the organ on "Body" is a bit playful and would even be at home in a church choir. One of my favorite tracks is "Acknowledgments" with its chaotic percussion, powerful intermittent piano chords, and Ernesto and Chris covering more ground with their guitars than typically heard in a single tune. Together the ensemble creates sounds that are peaceful and disturbing... musical and grating. An enjoyable set and yet another challenging listen.

Jeremy Keens, Ampersand

...worth looking out for if you are interested in complex improvisations.
A quintet of voice, guitars, keyboard and percussion can suggest late night smoky jazz – and to some extent Focus do (or does, where American English enforces a singular verb to a collective noun). But it is a more complex form. The guitars (Diaz-Infante and Forsyth) rarely stray into 'straight' playing, ut work with the scrape skitter and clatter; the piano (Dan Dechellis) comes in bursts or perhaps from within the box; Jeff Arnal's percussion is similarly light and erupted; and Anita Dechellis whispers softly sings and murmurs lyrics that seem to be largely stream of consciousness or phonemic, and sounds occasionally like traditional jazz vocalists but more often like Bjork.
When I first listened to this I think I tried too hard to find structure and narrative – what is developing is more mood and atmosphere. By letting myself drift into the flow of the sounds I found it more agreeable. This is improv of the light touch and gesture – the players are willing to leave spaces for each other and for the listener to move into. Listening in this way sees that there are developments and movements in the pieces – the slow burn crescendo of the first track, the arch in the seventh; there are also some interesting sounds which could come from the keyboard or electric guitar – deep humms throbs and tones. And there are suggestions of noise – a strange drilling noise in a couple of tracks, the aggressive piano and tin-pot percussion of the third track – but the overall mood is of restraint and contemplation.
And then there are the track titles – one of the wittiest to come as a set for a while!
Not an easy listen, but worth looking out for if you are interested in complex improvisations.

Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

Ultimately, Focus Quintet are serious - and that's all we want.
ocus Quintet are Anita and Dan DeChellis, Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Chris Forsyth and Jeff Amal. This recording's tracks range from "comprovisation" to absolutely free music, played with the skills and capacities always to be expected from improvisers at this level. Anita DeChellis' vocalism is like an instrument in a collective rather than a real "protagonist" - and this is a plus, because I always have problems listening to a voice when it's not a simple colour or part of a structured composition. Diaz-Infante, Forsyth and Dan DeChellis act sparsely and intelligently, while Amal is looking for nuances while fracturing rhythm all over the place. Ultimately, Focus Quintet are serious - and that's all we want.

The Wire

Highly disciplined improvising produces a richly rewarding; gentle evocations of
Highly disciplined improvising produces a richly rewarding; gentle evocations of a world apart. The Wire, Feb. '03.