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Greg Fox (us)
Sunday, 04 Mar 2018
The Gradual Progression is a transformative collection of new music by Greg Fox. The seven pieces of The Gradual Progression activate spiritual states through physical means, Fox’s rigorous inner rhythms the mandalic vessel for unbound expression and arrangement. TGP signals both a reconciliation of disparate musical ventures and a new nirvanic stage in the artist’s oeuvre. Fox views TGP as an exploration of selfhood, and more specifically, the search for his true voice as an artist. Though such a journey is by nature ongoing, if not essentially elusive, the discoveries along the path are the musical riches of TGP. For his second solo album, Fox employs new m ethods of externalizing his polyrhythmic virtuosity into non-physical realms. This transfer of energy is achieved through responsive environments tethered to various aspects of the performance. Sensors attached to Fox’s drum kit trigger tonal palettes, or virtual instruments invented for each piece, which Fox communes with in the post-Free Jazz manner. That is, locating and emphasizing states of universal resonance in solo and ensemble settings in place of d emonstrating individual ability.
This is where the album’s canonic influences – and inventors – are most recognizable. Pharoah Sanders’ Elevation and Don Cherry’s Organic Music Society come to mind, though the guidance of master drummer and holistic healer Milford Graves ultimately made TGP possible. For Fox’s astonishing 2014 album Mitral Transmissions, Graves assisted Fox in adapting software that translated output signals from biological sources to virtual instruments. For TGP, Fox again used percussion to initiate passages whose intensity and vibrancy match Fox’s energetic presence and focus.
Adapting the ‘intuitive gesture’ of action painting, and other responsive means of art-making, Fox developed a musical language constructed to isolate its most emotional and felt states for exploration. The subjective themes that inspired these deep spaces of TGP are numerous: personal loss, self-improvement, and artistic struggle, to name a few. Another theme, hiding in plain sight, is Fox’s drumming. Years of supplying spin in collaborative bodies (Guardian Alien, Ex Eye, Liturgy, Zs) becomes a symbol of materiality on TGP, of organic animated energy seeking beyond its boundaries. Fox describes this tactile element as “sensing the emotionality and physicality of the world with the senses and through mental processes - about touching the walls of a pitch black room.”
TGP includes contributions from musicians Curtis Santiago, Michael Beharie, Maria Kim Grand, and Justin Frye, all lending various voices through instrument and from within. Fox considers the power of Sensory Percussion, the software program developed by Tlacael Esparza that helped facilitate the vision for TGP, unprecedented – something akin to magic. Though TGP tackles technical challenges, the inspirational core is the humanist goal of social progress and its parallel pursuit of self-knowledge. Fox strives for a new musical paradigm that focuses less on his drumming and more on its untapped potential as one element in a polyphonic unity. This dissolution of the self into a wider melodic abstraction signifies Fox’s real artistic accomplishment in The Gradual Progression, rendering percussion’s dark matter as an invisible b ut essential element between rhythm and life.
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