This CD shows two coexisting sides of flutist and Third Stream composer Fred Tompkins’ output. A cycle of rather concise improvisations recorded with pianist Greg Mills, with the addition of clarinetist Eric Mandat and cellist Tracy Andreotti in selected instances, plus a reminder of distant times through recordings of older pieces played by other musicians (without Tompkins).
Tompkins and Mills’ insights include specific influences, and are informed by a liveliness finely kept in check. Classical derivations are revealed in “Debussystically contemporary” fashion; the elegant assertiveness, also defining the abstractions, speaks for itself. Evocative resonances generated by varying instrumental combinations trigger memories of ages when making music was considered an art to be developed from early childhood, the enhancement of self-discipline and emotional control as a result of that practice.
The archival material mixes nice chunks with less interesting sections. “Ariana” (starring French horn virtuoso John Clark) is a decent fusion of styles unfortunately marred by synthetic timbres that dampen its vital energy. “Chinese Curtain”, featuring the late Chuck Loeb’s guitar wisdom, introduces appealing melodic developments in a fairly predictable rhythmic framework. The closure is 1979’s “Postlude”, a fascinating piece for Bb clarinet (Bryant Hayes, who left this world in 2012) and piano (Norman Carey). This and the entire set of duos and trios with Mills, Mandat and Andreotti constitute the genuine raison d’être of Stretching Time.