Percussionist Mike Mahaffay's Tres Gone Sextet presents an interesting evolution of free improvisation within a multi-ethnic and multi-disciplinary approach. Mahaffay has been involved in creative music since at least the early Seventies, when he worked with Bob Moses, Richie Bierach, Dave Liebman and others in Free Life Communication. He's now based in Portland and convened Tres Gone with guitarists Scott Steele and Eric Hausmann and multi-instrumentalists Mike Lastra and Stan Wood. Robo-Robinson brings clarinetist Perry Robinson aboard for thirteen improvisations on an instrumental canvas which includes theremin, vibra-band (a large, blown rubber band) and a litany of sampling devices. While the group is unabashedly free-form in it's explorations, with otherworldly detail and passages of dense, indeterminate white noise from electronic devices, guitars, and percussion, there is a nearly defiant sense of swing throughout. That's mostly due to Robinson's clarinet playing, which even when sallying forth without a traditional net, stitches together chamuleau digs, upper-register trills and fragments of singsong melody. On "Definitely a Dance Tune," synth-guitar, sampled percussion, dumbek and trap set to create a surprisingly earthy backdrop for Robinson's funky blues walk. His piercing shouts and squirrely growls nevertheless maintain their organic base cutting through a grungy, synthesized stew on "Killer Bees," propelled by Mahaffay's free-time march and occasionally accented by guitar and Wood's vibra-band (which mimics trumpet, tenor and baritone saxophones from bar to bar). The last few minutes of "Rapture of the Deep" contain brilliant dialogue between Wood and Robinson, the former approximating buzzing, bent Moog-like sounds and pocket trumpet over a sparse piano-guitar landscape. "Deep Coda" extends the interplay to split-toned brass winnowing as languid, breathy clarinet splays out among pianistic fragments and electrified spikes. Robinson's funk dumplings return on "Godzilla vs. Monsanto," supported by glitchy electronic bass-lines, dry snare and sampled percussive accents. Robo-Robinson is unlike anything else I've encountered in improvised music, an organic-digital landscape that revels in unfamiliar combinations and finds in them an incredible groove. Clifford Allen Signal to Noise Mag Perry Robinson: clarinet & ocerina Stan Woods: vibraband, vocal, wooden flute, percussion Mike Lastra: piano, theremin, bullhorn, samples Eric Hausmann: guitar, guitar synth, iphone, samples Scott Steele: guitar, and signal processing Mike Mahaffay: acoustic/ electric hybrid drum kit Recorded at Smegma Studios Engineered by Mike Lastra & Mark Ellsworth Mixed by Mike Mahaffay, Scott Steele, & Mike Lastra Cover design by Kate Steele Tres Gone Sextet with Perry Robinson - 'Robo-Robinson' (Mahaffay Musical Archive 2009, CD) Portland out-music trio Tres Gone has long been at the forefront of the Oregon free jazz scene, whether playing long extended rock grooves or ambient sound washes. This studio recording finds the band enlisting the services of New York clarinetist Perry Robinson as a unique voice in the mix, thus taking the sonic banter to an altogether different plateau. Representative tracks include 'Killer Bees', with it's twisted pastiche of ring-modulated guitar opposite guitar synthesizer and Robinson's angular phrasing. Additional contributions come from Mike Lastra of Smegma on piano, Theremin, and samples, and Stan Wood (also from Smegma) on vibraband, wood flute, other-worldly vocals, and percussion. Longer tracks, including 'Rapture of the Deep' and 'Slippery Rock', show the meandering scope of the ensemble. The former piece begins in a wandering mode, where casual conversation was mixed out in favor of spacey guitars, samples of acoustic piano along with some actual piano, and Wood's plastic duck-call horn. Manual wow and flutter techniques are used frequently. The latter track in contrast is more furtive in approach, with vibraband and peppery woodwind stilettos creating a purposeful, disorienting din. Shorter ideas that get the point across include 'Sing Sing Swing', based on a Benny Goodman classic, with the ring-modulated guitar jumping the track and giving the piece a unique character. Quite fittingly, 'Martian Soul Food' closes the disk on a rhythmic and percussive note. It's clear that the trio's improvisational base has greatly benefitted from the strong voice of guest soloist Robinson. -Jeff Melton/Scott Steele.