Composer Anthony Cornicello (born in Brooklyn, New York, 1964) writes music that blurs distinctions between performers and electronics, timbre and harmony, composition and improvisation, and explores the boundaries of what may be considered post-classical concert music. His music is vibrant and visceral, full of rhythmic energy and harmonic sophistication, and his forays into live electronics have led to exciting combinations of instruments and processed sound. Cornicello’s background as a jazz pianist is evident not only in the rhythmic activity of his music, but also in his constant investigation of the rich sonorities available from a variety of instruments.

He has been commissioned to write music for the Scorchio Electric String Quartet, ModernWorks! (funding from Meet the Composer/ Commissioning Music USA), the Auros Group for New Music, the Prism Saxophone Quartet, the New York New Music Ensemble, David Holzman, the Group for Contemporary Music, and the InterEnsemble of Padova, Italy. His work has also been featured on the Guggenheim Museum’s “Works and Process” series. Cornicello’s works have also been performed by the Chicago Civic Symphony, Parnassus, ALEA III, Composers Concordance, Madeleine Shapiro, Robert Black, among many other outstanding groups and solo performers. His music has been presented as part of the Darmstadt International Festival of New Music as well as the June in Buffalo Festival.

Cornicello’s Second String Quartet has been recorded by the Atlantic String Quartet; the Second Sonata for Piano by David Holzman (Centaur). More recently, his Post-Modern Waltz was recorded by Eric Moe for Albany Records. A portrait CD of Cornicello’s works is scheduled for 2006 release on Albany Records.

As a performer, he has conducted or played piano in his own works on numerous occasions. While a graduate student at Rutgers, he formed and directed the Janus Ensemble, a group dedicated to contemporary music. More recently, Cornicello has begun performing on the laptop, using a variety of interfaces and the Max/MSP program. Those performances, mostly with EEE!, have had a notable impact on his music, as EEE!’s music ranges from hip-hop to experimental noise. EEE! is based at Eastern Connecticut State University, where Cornicello is an Associate Professor and Director of the Electronic Music Lab.

Cornicello received the Ph.D. from Brandeis University, where he studied with David Rakowski, Eric Chasalow, and Martin Boykan. His teachers also include Charles Wuorinen, Gérard Grisey, and Richard Beirach.

His current fields of interest include developing unusual interfaces for live computer music performances, as well as continuing to investigate resonance and spatialization. His recent and current projects (mostly for string instruments and electronics) have been exploring the latter two, and the series of experimental works ReZenant Garden, performed by EEE! have operated on all three areas of interest. Future projects will include works for instrumental groups or soloists and electronics, as well as turntablists.

Cornicello's works are published by C.F. Peters Corporation and APNM, and he is a member of BMI.

Saturday, August 04, 2007
Book review: Jazz Visions by Peter Ind

Okay, I've got to start this with a HUGE disclaimer. My uncle, Ronnie Ball (who passed away over 20 years ago), was a student of Lennie Tristano, who is the subject of this book. I've been a Tristano fan for quite some time, so hearing about this book was delightful. When I opened it up to find a sub-section devoted to my uncle, I literally jumped out of my seat.

Peter Ind's book on Tristano is most likely the first of its kind - a decent study of Lennie's life, playing, and pedagogical methods. It's not exactly an outsider's view, as bassist Ind studied with, and later performed with Tristano and those associate with him. The book is filled with anecdotes as well as press quotes and other commentaries.

The first section of the book produces a musical biography, interspersed with editorial comments from Ind. Here, he starts one of the main threads that run through the book: Lennie as the unrecognized genius. It's something I can't disagree with, although I think now, more than ever, people know who Lennie was. Despite Ind's feeling that the whole Tristano clan was singled out, I'm sure there are many people, in many fields who experience the same thing. It's a slight of the times, yet complaining about it will not make it go away; writing a well-thought out book, like this, can only help spread the knowledge of Tristano's accomplishments.

Peter Ind also brings up another thread: the unacknowledged innovator. I'll certainly give him credit on part of this, with regards to technology. A recording such as Line Up, overdubbing the piano (recorded at half speed) over pre-recorded drums and bass was a bit of a marvel, not to mention a stroke of genius. From what I've heard, Lennie made up those tapes for his students to practice playing over certain chord changes (Line Up is really All of Me in A-flat), years before Jamie Abersold. Recording the piano at half speed allowed him to not only play truly 'in the pocket' but also created a wildly intense piano sound.

Here's an interesting aside, presented by Ind. John Mehegan, who is the author of a wonderful 4-volume book set on jazz piano, actually blasted Tristano for his overdubbing, thinking it was done to compensate for Lennie's poor playing. (I would have loved to have heard what Mehegan said about C minor complex, which is solo piano, no speeding up or overdubbing: Lennie just plays the crap out of the piano, and it's astounding.) I wondered why Mehegan didn't include Lennie in his lists of jazz musicians - now I see why.

Back to the book, Ind also goes on to mention that Lennie was the first to experiment with free jazz. He mentions how this fact is often overlooked in jazz, yet I seem to recall hearing about this in the 80s. While Intuition and Digression were the first free-form jazz recording, they were isolated experiments. For whatever reason, Lennie and his followers decided not to follow up this idea.

There are some other little gems in this book. We read about how Charlie Parker was quite interested in the whole Tristano thing. Parker played with Lennie on occasion (see this, also available at emusic), and was supposed to play an extended engagement with (alto saxophonist and Tristanoite)Lee Konitz in March, 1955. Peter Ind was there, along with my uncle, waiting for Bird. When he didn't show up, they wondered what happened, and then the news came that he had died. I'm curious what would have happened had Parker lived a few months longer; had he played with the Konitz group, maybe recorded one of their complex tunes, said a few nice things to a jazz critic, would the whole Tristano clan been evaluated differently?

One more aside: my uncle told me a story of Bird sitting in with the Konitz and (tenor saxophonist) Warne Marsh group; most likely, Ind was there along with Ronnie. They played Parker's tune Donna Lee, and had a little surprise for Bird for the last half of the out chorus. Instead of playing the last 16 bars in unison, they'd often play it as a cannon, one beat off from each other. (I think one started a beat early, one a beat late; Parker would have been playing it correctly, in between them.) Bird, unaware of the arrangement, looked around, wondering what had happened, but they continued on. About halfway through the half chorus, there's a passage of chromatic wandering; when they reached that spot, there was a wild sound as all three horns created fast moving clusters. When they finished, Bird let out a huge laugh.

The other sections in Ind's book are incredibly informative. The materials on his teaching methods are indispensable. We get a sense of how much knowledge Lennie had on the subject of jazz; yet, as opposed to some teachers I've known, it didn't seem to hold him back. I was especially impressed by Chapter 6 "What Happened to His Associates" - that's where he had a nice chunk of material on my uncle (who, by the way, was not exactly talkative about his accomplishments!). Many of these figures remain in their cult-like status, with the possible exception of Lee Konitz, who is widely known.

There were a few things missing from this book. I'd like to have seen some musical examples (there are none), and maybe some more photos. Also, a more complete discography, if not a session listing. (It's always interesting to discover the alternate takes and sidemen, and tunes change over the years - or sometimes not!) He has a "select discography" at the end of the book. I can understand doing this for some of the side players, but not for Lennie. Frankly, if Peter Ind feels that Lennie is unrecognized, it would be more the reason to provide as complete a listing as possible (even of the sidemen), and recommending the reader to start with some selected recordings.

Finally, one thing I'd like to see: a list of Lennie's tunes (and his associates as well), and their derivations. That might be a little beyond the scope of a book like this, but it would be an incredible resource.