Dave Fiuczynski’s Micro Kif Jamz, at the Jazz-Rock-Funk Throwdown, June 2018
Dave Fiuczynski plays a lot of notes—in the sense that is usually meant and in another sense that is decidedly a path less traveled. For sure, his musical approach includes cleanly picked note barrages and long peaks-and-valleys jazz-fusion lines, but its most unusual salient feature is microtonality. Fiuczynski explores the notes between the notes of the twelve-tone equal tempered Western scale, drawing inspiration from a variety of both the scales of non-Western musics and the explorations of microtonal composers who fall under the broad classical umbrella.
Pretty much all guitarists are familiar with a little bit of microtonality. When you bend a note ever-so-slightly to get it to sound just like Eric Clapton, for example, that’s a tiny bit of microtonality. Often transcriptions will notate these bends of less-than-a-semitone as quarter tones, though I kind of doubt that Clapton or the blues greats who inspired him intended anything so precise. More elaborate microtonality, however, is a game changer. Fiuczynski joked from the NuBlu stage that microtonal music sounds out of tune, and that’s not an unusual first impression. Microtonal music certainly sounds different from the styles of Western music that have found their way around the globe. Like many adventurous flavors, it starts out as an acquired taste. For some, acquired tastes become flavors they can’t live without.
The Alternative Guitar Summit announces itself as “a yearly festival of daring, inventive players who emphasize new and unusual approaches to the guitar,” and its Jazz-Rock-Funk Throwdown more than lived up to that promise. Held at NuBlu, on New York City’s Lower East Side, on June 22, the three-set bill boasted Dave Fiuczynski’s Micro Kif Jamz; Adam Rogers’s DICE; and Harriet Tubman, featuring Brandon Ross. Three-and-half hours of ear-bending, imaginative, guitar-centric exploration ensued, a celebration of some of the outer reaches of musical expression.
“Alternative” is one of those words that, I think, don’t mean much when applied to music. But, in this context, maybe it’s apt, since most of this music was out the broad wheelhouse of my listening. Some of it still is, while some it has found its place in my frequent listening. I found that writing about the individual performances required a noticeably different approaches, reflecting the state of my understanding and enjoyment of what each was up to.
All were totally worth the experience! It is good to have one’s ears stretched! This is the first in a three-part series. The pieces I’ve written here fall somewhere between reviews and reflections on the process of wrapping my head around new sounds or musical approaches. Please check out each short installment of the series, and be sure to click the links for performance videos, bios, and/or interviews!