Track Talk

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Following is a discussion of the first CD release from Fretless Brothers, titled Footsteps, on FreeNote Records. This recording is performed entirely in the 12-Tone Ultra Plus tuning system, and features Jon Catler and Dane Johnson on 12-Tone Ultra Plus guitars, Hansford Rowe on 12-Tone Ultra Plus bass, and Brian Chase on tuned drums. The compositions are by Jon Catler, and the CD was recorded live at Water Music Studios in Hoboken, NJ.

This journey kicks off with the song “East Coast Blues.” The opening E half minor to B half minor vamp leads to a driving melody in A half minor. These chords use 7/6 for the half minor third, which is flatter and more resonant than a standard minor third. Over a walking bass line, an A Harian chord, which has Harmonics 7 and 21 with a neutral third, connects the A half minor to G quartertone sharp minor, which makes for interesting voice leading.

The second song, “Grace,” features a syncopated counterpoint between the bass and guitar melody. After a metric modulation, Dane takes the first solo over the traveling chord sequence, followed by JC’s solo.

Next up is the title track, “Footsteps,” which further develops the concept of traveling chord changes. Here, the chords move both up and down continually at a fast pace, and the challenge is to improvise melodically over the changes. John Coltrane’s composition Giant Steps was a clear inspiration for this tune, as well as his playing on Interstellar Space. At the bridge, the harmonic movement lands on C half flat Undertone Series minor.

“Extinction” is a solo guitar piece that makes use of some of the extended 13-limit Just Intonation chords possible in the 12-Tone Ultra Plus tuning system. The song is about how when a person dies, that individual becomes extinct.

The fifth song, “Stillwalker,” has three distinct sections. The opening pits an ascending fourths-based line against a descending superchromatic bass counterpoint. The middle section is a heavy B half minor thing, which leads to the arpeggios that inform the third section. Here, another descending superchromatic bass line is combined with some ringing pedal tones, which gives the ‘Stillwalker’ effect of moving while staying in place. The guitar takes the melody over this section, followed by a solo which takes into account both the moving line and the pedal tones.

“While She Sleeps” is a ballad with some unusual harmonic movement which moves to minor chords built on 11th and 13th Harmonics. Jim Mussen plays drums, and JC takes the first solo, followed by Dane and then a bass solo by Hanny.

“Cat’s Boogie” features a high speed chase with the two diverging guitars. JC solos first, then Dane, after which JC and Brian use Harmonic Rhythm to modulate to the ‘Key Of 3′, while Dane and Hanny stay on the boogie. As this song is in A, and the 3rd Harmonic of A is E, the modulation is to E half minor in 3/4 time, against the boogie in A in 4/4.

The CD closes on a quieter note with “Lament.” This piece uses variations on the Ancient Greek tetrachords played in triple canon. The canons continue as the guitar melody sings the lament.