Adams / Cox / Fink / Fox   CB0009

The music

This album presents four noted West Coast composers—three from Southern California and one from Fairbanks, Alaska—writing haunting, generally quiet, sometimes lyric, occasionally pensive music for clarinet and bass clarinet accompanied by either string quartet or percussion and piano. All the pieces feature the playing of clarinetist/bass clarinetist Marty Walker.

Adams’s Dark Wind was written for Marty Walker and this CD in 2001. Although it is a process-driven piece involving polyrhythms and ever-widening intervals, its rolled percussion and piano parts and quietly expressive clarinet lines lend it the feeling of a freely composed, almost impressionistic work.

The Fink, Cox, and Fox quintets were written for Marty Walker in 1990, and given their premieres by him that same year at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (L.A.C.E.) gallery. These pieces were released in 1992 in a limited pressing on the short-lived Raptoria Caam label, a company run by composer/performer Maria Newman.

Fink’s Thread of Summer is a continuous melody filtered through the various timbres of the quintet’s instrumental combinations. Cox’s When April May floats a lyric line over a repeating harmonic structure. Fox’s Between the Wheels is a series of quiet bass clarinet statements, accompanied by violin harmonics, heard against a cycling tapestry of string tremolos.

Among the four ensemble pieces, clarinetist Walker has nested two Interludes—very short improvisations that delicately hover at the threshold of audibility.

The composers

John Luther Adams has made his home for the past 30 years in the boreal forest near Fairbanks, Alaska, where he has created music grounded in the landscapes and indigenous cultures of the North. He has written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, radio, film, television, and theater. Recent performances of his music have included productions at the Almeida Opera Festival (London) and Arena Stage (Washington, DC) and by The Paul Dresher Ensemble (San Francisco), the Third Angle New Music Ensemble (Portland, OR), and The Monophony Consort (Yokohama, Japan). He has received awards and fellowships from Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lila Wallace Arts Partners Program, the Rockefeller Foundation, Opera America, and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts. Currently, Adams served as president of the American Music Center. He has music recorded on the New Albion, New World, Cold Blue, Mode, Opus One, Owl, and Centaur labels. 

Rick Cox is a Los Angeles-based composer and multi-instrumentalist. As a featured performer (woodwinds, guitar, and sampler), he can be heard on such popular film scores as The Shawshank Redemption, The Horse Whisperer, and American Beauty (scores by Thomas Newman) and on a number of recordings by jazz/new-music trumpeter Jon Hassell, with whom he has also toured. He has also collaborated with guitarist/composer Ry Cooder, arranging, composing and performing on the film scores Last Man Standing and Wim Wenders’s End of Violence. Cox’s own scores include Inside Monkey Zetterland and Corrina, Corrina. He regularly performs in the Los Angeles area with new music, avant-rock, and jazz-oriented ensembles. His concert pieces have been commissioned and performed by chamber ensembles and soloists throughout the U.S. and recorded on the Grenadilla, Advance, Raptoria Caam, and Cold Blue labels. 

Michael Jon Fink’s music has been presented at the Green Umbrella Series of the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, New Music L.A., the Monday Evening Concerts, the SCREAM Festival, the L.A. Fringe Festival, New Music America, the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival, Festival Commune di Chiesa, and the Martes Musicales. His orchestra works have been commissioned and performed by the Antelope Valley Symphony, the Classical Philharmonic, Symphony of the Canyons, and the Santa Monica Symphony. His incidental music for the W. B. Yeats play Deirdre was performed at theEdinburgh Fringe Festival. He has works released on the Cold Blue, Raptoria Caam, Bare Bones, and CRI labels. The Los Angeles Times has described Fink’s music as “lustrous” and “metaphysically tinged” and likened it to the work of the late composer Morton Feldman. 

Jim Fox’s music has been commissioned and performed by groups and soloists throughout the U.S. and presented at the Monday Evening Concerts, New Music America, Real Art Ways, Wires, the SCREAM Festival, the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival, Podewil, the Ventura Chamber Music Festival, L.A.C.E., and many similar venues. He has also scored feature films. His music, which has been described by critics as both “austere” and “sensuous,” has been recorded on the CRI, Advance, Cold Blue, Grenadilla, Raptoria Caam, and Citadel labels and published in such new music anthologies as Soundings and Scores. His Cold Blue recording Last Things (CB0001) was chosen as a record of the year (2000) by the Italian music magazine Blow Up and The Wire magazine described it as “an austere, ethereal experience.” International Record Review wrote of it: “Fox’s music invites one to believe that if the stars, constellations and galaxies emitted sounds, these unearthly harmonics are what one might hear.”

The performers

Marty Walker is a clarinetist who specializes in the performance new music. (He has premiered more than 90 works written especially for him.) Among the labels for which he has recorded are CRI, O.O.Discs, Tzadik, Cold Blue, Grenadilla, Echograph, New World, and Rastacan. Walker has tourded and recorded with various new-music ensembles, including the the Robin Cox Ensemble, the California E.A.R. Unit (the in-residence ensemble at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Some Over History, eXindigo, Viklarbo, and Ghost Duo. As a soloist, he has presented live radio concerts on NPR, Pacifica, and other radio venues and has performed at numerous new music festivals, including New Music America (Miami and Houston), the International Festival of New Music (Los Angeles), and New Music International (Mexico City), and noted new music venues, including Real Art Ways, FaultLines, the Monday Evening Concerts, and Wires. The Los Angeles Times called Walker’s playing “masterfully expressive;” El Nacional (Mexico City) wrote that his playing “took the audience to another musical dimension;” and Option magazine called him “one of the finest new-music clarinetists in the country.” Last year, Cold Blue released Walker’s CD Dancing on Water (CB0005). 21st Century Music magazine wrote of that release: “If people are best known by the company they keep, then clarinetist Marty Walker is blessed indeed. He keeps wonderful company with an excellent series of composers…. both the playing and the recording quality are sparkling.”

“Marty Walker traverses a special world of sound just off the radar of traditional instrument usage, exploring and savoring the secret passageways tucked into the bass clarinet.” —Josef Woodard

Amy Knoles is a percussionist and composer who has performed with the California E.A.R. Unit, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Basso Bongo, John Cage, Frank Zappa, Morton Subotnick, Steve Reich, Tod Machover, Flea, The Paul Dresher Ensemble, Quincy Jones, Ensemble Modern, The Bang On A Can All Stars, and many others ensembles. She has performed at concerts and festivals throughout the world, including the Helsinki Festival, the Spoleto Festival, the Sommer Theater Festival (Hamburg), the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Cyber Arts Festival, the Aspen Dance Festival, and the Ojai Festival. She has recorded for Sony Classics, Barking Pumpkin, Voyager CD-ROM, New Albion, Nonesuch, New World, O.O. Discs, CBS, RCA, Relativity, Echograph, and Crystal Records. She may also be heard on Marty Walker’s Cold Blue CD Dancing on Water, released in 2001. 

Bryan Pezzone is a Los Angeles pianist who specializes in contemporary music and film and television soundtracks. He has worked with many noted conductors—Pierre Boulez, Oliver Knussen, John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Kent Nagano—and performed as a soloist with major orchestras. From 1991 through 1999, he was principal pianist with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He performs regularly at the Monday Evening Concerts, the Green Umbrella Series, the Southwest Chamber Music Series, and the Ojai Festival and has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, the Joffrey Ballet (soloist in Stravinsky’s Les Noces), and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Pezzone has been the pianist on virtually all of the cartoons released by Warner Brothers and Disney over the past six years. He is also responsible for recording much of Yamaha’s Disklavier Piano Series. He is a consulting editor for the publication Piano and Keyboard. His recent recordings include works by John Harbison, Mel Powell, John Briggs, and John Cage. He may also be heard on a number of Cold Blue CDs.

Maria Newman, a violinist/violist/composer and the director of the Amelite Consortium, is the youngest daughter of famed film composer Alfred Newman. She attended the Eastman School of Music and Yale University. A champion of the music of Miklos Rozsa, she made the world premiere recording of his Viola Concerto with the Nuremberg Symphony and gave the American premiere of his 1928 Violin Concerto. Newman is a founding member of the award-winning Viklarbo Chamber Ensemble, and she has recorded for the Varese Sarabande, Audioquest, Bay Cities, Colosseum, and Raptoria Caam labels. As a prolific concert composer, she has received many commissions and awards, including five consecutive annual ASCAP Awards and two Composers Guild Awards.

Peter Kent (violin), Valerie Dimond (viola), and Gregg Gottlieb, and Dan Smith (cellos) of the Amelite Consortium are very active chamber music and studio musicians in Los Angeles.


“In turns beautiful, expressive, contemplative and haunting, this is music that slows the listener’s world to a crawl; he is thus free to explore all its wonders, both its lights, shimmering and bright, and its shadows, creeping intently over the surfaces of things. Recommended.” —Incursion Music Review

“Warm dronic music that shimmers in sensuality…just plain old beautiful music…delicate music.”21st Century Music magazine

“To say there’s little variety on CB009—most of the music is slow and quiet—would be a victory for lazy listening, but a readjustment of listener priorities and expectations is in order. The performances are about as ego-free as one can find, and they seem indivisible from the compositions themselves. The disc’s playing time is short, but this is just the right amount of a good thing.” —Fanfare magazine

“Musical constructions that suggest, and invite, quiet, focused reflection.”International Record Review

“A rarefied atmosphere and great subtlety in the interweaving of the structure.”Il Manifesto (Italy)

“Reed player Marty Walker leads us deep into a seamless collection of quiet, ruminative chamber pieces by West Coast composers. As different as they are, the works presented here are of a piece. The entire disc is perfectly sequenced; the individual works flow together like a journey, with Walker’s warm and very human tone taking the part of guide and companion. In the best Cold Blue tradition there is plenty of room for the listener here; just enough space to walk a satisfying path between meditative silence and fully sense-engaging sound.” —Dusted Magazine

“This is a beautiful collection of six compositions for small ensembles [clarinet, vibraphone & marimba, piano, violin, viola and cello] which repay careful and close listening. They are quietly experimental and new, yet tuneful enough for even the most conservative of classical music listeners.” —Rupert Loydell, Tangents (UK)

“Fink’s Thread of Summer is an articulate, contemplative work that puts forth a rich autumnal half-light.… Fox’s gentle Between the Wheels shows that strings can create a hovering, birdlike atmosphere.… A success.” —Richard Grooms, The Improvisor

“Quiet and unashamedly tonal writing…out of time, in a way.”Signal to Noise magazine

“Four enchanting pieces of chamber music… linked by an enveloping mood of quietness, a pensive and subdued lyricism.”Blow Up (Italy)

“Four slices of chamber music…punctuated by two short, quiet clarinet interludes by Marty Walker. Adams’s Dark Wind lives up to its title with gorgeous acoustic instrument atmospherics that flow and darkly brood with the best of ’em—very minimal, pleasurable and impressive. In Fink’s Thread of Summer, a forlorn melody is bandied about between Marty and the rest of the ensemble. Cox’s When April May ‘floats a lyric line over a repeating harmonics structure,’ while Fox’s Between the Wheels boasts a ‘series of quiet bass clarinet statements, accompanied by violin harmonics, heard against a cycling tapestry of string tremolos.’ All in all, this CD gives the impression of being one long, flowing work of a single composer, rather than four, and stands as a fine presentation of austere understatement.” —Arcane Candy

“Pieces that glide along some quiet harbors…. This is chamber music that could as easily give meaning to the long lanes of palms lining the streets of Los Angeles, swaying in the hot breeze of the Southern California nights. Aglow with the lights of the city, this music could accompany us anywhere.”—I Heard a Noise webzine (Romania)

“The overall rhetoric across the entire album is one of quietude. Listening to these tracks will be served best by a setting with as little interference as possible…. Dark Wind requires the listener to be keenly aware of the work’s subtle textures…. One might almost say that the Adams composition orients the attentive listener in preparation for the pieces by Fink, Cox, and Fox that follow it on the album.”—Stephen Smoliar, The Rehearsal Studio