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As a teenager trying to understand the ways of the world, two mysteries continually presented themselves to me: sports cars and jazz. The reasons why anyone would devote themselves to these endeavors completely eluded me. My experience with sports cars was the following: they were much smaller and more fragile than the big American cars I was used to. They cost more to purchase and more to repair. They all had dents in their hoods from the higher American cars backing into them when they parked. And they were always being broken into. Why would anyone want to become involved in this?

And jazz: what were these guys doing—I couldn’t understand it? It was not the norm played on the radio. It was not the best selling type of music, and the musicians themselves could hardly ever find work. Why would anyone want to become involved with this?

I would readily have ridiculed and dismissed both these endeavors had it not been for one inescapable factor: all the people I respected—all the people who were smarter and more experienced than I loved these two things. To dismiss sports cars and jazz would be to negate the esteem I held for these special individuals. No--if they liked it, there had to be something there. I was missing something, and to handily dismiss these endeavors would be extremely pompous of me. And so I asked “What do you like about sports cars?”, and I was told “Just drive one.” I did, and the next day I sold my American car and bought one, and have never looked back.

And so it is for Chemical Composition—when I was asked “What do you like about them?” I simply said give them a listen. Give them a listen and they will quite likely always have a place in your hearts. They are among that small group of artists who continue to push the boundaries of music—who dare us to learn more about the richness and definition of a musical experience. Just as the invention of the camera forced artists to abandon the pursuit of realism in painting, modern musicians have been exploring the place of melody and harmony in music, and daring to discover what type of musical experience can be attained by abandoning melody and traditional harmony. Can a musical experience exist without melody and harmony?

Chemical Composition joins the ranks of those committed to making a musical statement that avoids traditional harmony and melody. The group is comprised of three unique and experienced musicians: pianist Constance Cooper, percussionist John Cacciatore, and guitarist Tom Desisto—musicians well versed in the tradition of harmony and melody, but who are nonetheless committed to creating an alternate type of musical experience, and showing that “free music” requires as much discipline and rigor as any other form of music. Improvising musicians have always referred to what they do as “having musical conversations” with other band members; turn on Chemical Composition and learn how that conversation can be conducted without an AABA foundation.

Reviewed by Irwin Leibowitz

Dr. Leibowitz, a licensed psychologist as well as a jazz musician, wrote Essays in the Psychology of Music and Art for his college-level course, "The Psychology of Music and Art." He is a contributing columnist to Just Jazz Guitar Magazine. Some of his own jazz material is included in a volume of Chuck Wayne transcriptions for solo guitar.