Published Jan 22, 2020American professor, composer and musician Charles Curtis has threaded his talented tendrils through a wide array of music modes and scenes. A classically trained cellist, he has roots in chamber music, yet he was also an original member of the poetic avant-rock group King Missile. In the 1980s, he was a key component of the New York avant-garde "downtown music" scene, rubbing elbows with the likes of Alan Licht, Tim Barnes, Elliott Sharp and Borbetomagus, as well as members of Television, Pere Ubu and PiL. For over 20 years, Curtis has been associated with the renowned experimental composer La Monte Young, and has been involved with more performances of Young's work than anyone else. That's quite an impressive — and eclectic — curriculum vitae.
Equally impressive is this triple-CD box set, which includes over two hours of performances from the multi-faceted Curtis. Stylistically, these works span the many interests and avenues embraced by the performer's wide-ranging sensibility. From the elegiac drones of Éliane Radigue to the medieval compositions of Guillaume de Machaut to the abstract electro-acoustic tonalities and graphical scores of Fluxus-affiliated experimentalists Richard Maxfield and Alison Knowles, this set has explored every nook and cranny of Curtis's oeuvre. There are even a handful of Curtis's own works, including the epic "Music for Awhile," performed by his avant-rock group, the Charles Curtis Trio.
The whole package is neatly assembled, complete with liner notes prepared by the master La Monte Young himself, Saltern label head Tashi Wada and composer Spencer Gerhardt. Exhaustingly comprehensive, incredibly informative and just plain fun to listen to, this career retrospective is downright impressive. (Saltern)