IMAGES: To download, click above. Photo credit: James Ilgenfritz, Brian Chase and Robbie Lee by Federico Garcia De Castro.



Infrequent Seams
James Ilgenfritz
Brian Chase
Robbie Lee


James Ilgenfritz, Brian Chase & Robbie Lee

Infrequent Seams

When the improvising trio of bassist James Ilgenfritz, drummer Brian Chase and esoteric woodwind specialist Robbie Lee first crossed paths in New York City, a common bond of shared musical ideas was already in place.

“We’re somewhat like a collective brain,” as Lee describes the synergy. “There’s almost a bio-feedback organism vibe to this group.” That collective brain includes a blend of lowercase abstraction, contemplative jazz musings and contemporary classical chamber music that embraces artistic expressions that value vulnerability, fragility and subtlety.

The result is Loss and Gain, a 40-minute set of diverse, meditative, and even quietly expressive improvised performances.  The album ethos sprang from a death of controlled expectations, that led to a birth of greater potentialities, possibilities, and sonic experimentations.  Alongside open improvisation, Loss and Gain presents two tracks that explore just intonation, Chase’s composition “happening” and the scordatura pure and altered tuning of Ilgenfritz’s “no answer.”

Loss and Gain constantly fulfills and thwarts expectation through the form of free improvisation or free jazz, which doesn’t actually mean anything goes. Rather it’s about individual members’ capacities and willingness to not only listen, but actually hear what the others are saying.

“We make decisions that reflect the expressions, perspectives and values that are being freely expressed by the members of the group,” describes Ilgenfritz. “Freedom in this context comes through listening, respect, and trust. That doesn’t mean it has to be pleasant 100% of the time, but that when the music becomes ugly, pretty, fast, slow, or any other type of demonstrative characteristic, it develops from the group’s shared intentions.”

Certain types of improvisation, musical or otherwise, leave more to chance, or intuition, than others. The level of external structure informing one’s internal decisions can vary drastically in different situations. In musical improvisation, that which goes unspoken is often the single most essential component of success, even when “success” totally evades definition.

We rarely find words that are adequate to express what’s most valuable about any type of experience in life; and perhaps that’s what motivates this trio to try. The music made by this trio has evolved out of the situations in which they’ve found themselves, with those situations and experiences embedded in what’s created.

Ilgenfritz recalls a favorite childhood story about a group of kids with a refrigerator box who develop a long string of fantastic adventures with their potent imaginations. They reshape the box, decorate it and even work with it after rain has reduced it to mush.

“This recording brings this story back to my mind, because the music we played is like a series of adventures derived from having a big empty box and deciding what that box could be,” says Ilgenfritz. “It’s much more engaging than if the box already WAS something.”

Loss and Gain is a type of aural magnifying glass. Through its lens, that which is often overlooked is given a spotlight: the minutiae, the ephemera, the delicate (the delicacy), the vulnerable, the subconscious. An embrace such as this treats the world in its fullest totality, and with this way of looking the world doesn’t seem the same as it once was.