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Agrippa's 3 Books

Edmund Welles: the bass clarinet quartet's debut CD, Agrippa's 3 Books, explores the expressive extremes of the four bass clarinets, inspired by occult philosophy heavy metal music. Agrippa's 3 Books, mixed and mastered by sound alchemist Oz Fritz, features the piece of the same name (commissioned by Chamber Music America), composed by founding member, Cornelius Boots, as well as a classic metal trilogy of cover tunes from Black Sabbath, Sepultura, and Spinal Tap. Available at CD Baby, iTunes, and elsewhere. Featured on All About Jazz NYC's Top Ten of 2005 in both the live performance and album categories.

Heavy Chamber Music, Muzak for Conspiracy Theorists. Instrumentation is always exactly four bass clarinets, and the sonorous timbre of this potent instrumentation takes woodwind chamber music into the realm of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Melt-Banana. The style might be called "...'clarinet rock.' Never have you heard the clarinet take on so much attitude, so much angst, so much personality. Mixing in styles and approaches from contemporary classical writing to jazz to just good old rock 'n roll licks..." [CD Baby, review 10/05]
"After having been rescued from the back rows of the orchestra by `60s jazz, the bass clarinet has found many homes. Today the instrument is no longer rare, but it has become the province almost solely of the less composed spheres of the genre. That's a shame, really, because the bass clarinet can be one of the most expressive instruments around, pleasing yet subversive with a remarkable tonal range in the right hands. Edmund Welles, a San Francisco-based bass clarinet quartet, has created a symphonic repertoire that mixes the best elements of chamber music, jazz, heavy metal, and "religious" music.

The group, led by composer Cornelius Boots, must have quite a following, evidenced by the remarkable turnout at a late August performance at The Stone. There the group played material from Agrippa's 3 Books, as well as some older original material and covers. The album is a four-part suite (not including pre- and postlude) inspired by the 16th Century philosophical treatises of the German intellectual. The music is simply remarkable. Boots has the ability to write compelling melodies and mix them with fascinating counterpoints, all while fully utilizing every black laquered inch of the instrument. Stylistically, the pieces owe more to the realm of Black Sabbath than Eric Dolphy, but they're still firmly based in the new music tradition.

The rest of the album is filled out by covers-Sabbath, Sepultura, Spinal Tap-which somewhat diffuse the seriousness of what preceded them. On album, they come at the end as a respite. In performance, they came first, acting as an initiation before the more difficult works. And difficult they are. Never before has the instrument been written for so well and most listeners might not be prepared for so much of this sound. And with a remarkable recording, no detail is missed. A stunning document." --Andrey Henkin/All About Jazz NYC 10/2005