The members of the A/B Duo are percussionist Christopher G. Jones and flutist Meerenai Shim. At the end of this coming week (on October 7), Aerocade Music with release the first full-length album of performances by this group. The title of the album is Variety Show, and bandcamp has set up a Web page for the purchase of the album in both digital and physical form, both of which are currently available for pre-order.
As might be guessed, Jones commands a wide variety of percussion instruments in his performances, and this album suggests that he is not shy about turning to electronics for further enhancements. Shim, on the other hand, plays just about every possible size of flute. One advantage of purchasing this album in physical form is that the album jacket includes a photograph of her with a flute that is larger than she is:
Far more interesting is the extent to which the A/B Duo repertoire is based on commissions. Of the seven compositions on Variety Show, five were commissioned over a period of three years. Of the other two, one, Ian Dicke’s “Isla,” was commissioned by a flute-vibraphone duo; and the other, “Wrought Iron” by Andrea L. Reinkemeyer, was commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra.
A/B is a bicoastal duo. This means that their aesthetic is a synthesis of the (sometimes) opposing influences of New York (Jones is from Rochester) and California (Shim is from Campbell). It is therefore no surprise that there is considerable diversity across the seven tracks on Variety Show. To some extent that diversity emerges from the broad sonorous differences across the many different sizes of flutes that Shim plays. The instrument in the above photograph is a contrabass flute, for which only a handful of pieces have been written. Nevertheless, Variety Show offers two of them, Drew Baker’s “Limb,” composed in 2013, and Ned McGowan’s “Ricochet,” whose connotations of bouncing almost suggest that the contrabass flute is some obscure form of pitched percussion instrument.
It is also worth noting that, while the physical packaging includes that photograph reproduced above, it is sufficiently minimal that there is no room for an accompanying booklet. Instead, the curious listener is referred to a Web page on the Aerocade Music Web site. The good news is that this provides a medium in which each composer is free to write as much or as little as (s)he wishes about her/his composition. The bad news is that the full spectrum of length is covered from two pieces described only in terms of instrumental resources (reproduction of the text chanted in Ian Dicke’s “Isla” would have been nice) to the almost moment-by-moment account of “Sol Moon Rocker” provided by composer Zack Browning. bandcamp claims that the digital download will come with “PDF liner notes.” Presumably this draws upon the same source content found on the Aerocade page.