John A. Carollo
As a huge fan of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, I can relate to classical composer John A. Carollo’s fanboy obsession. Crumb fans do not belong to a single, defining demographic or background; we cannot be stereotyped. And certainly one doesn’t normally connect Crumb with classical music. Early jazz, maybe, since Crumb collects the genre’s artifacts, but that’s about as close as it gets. Certainly the clean-cut, even snobbish reputation of classical music seems at odds with the perverse chaos of Crumb’s imagination. But artistic genius knows no boundaries.
Certainly Carollo’s music doesn’t bring Crumb’s brutal imagery to mind. Carollo’s compositions do not walk upon dark paths; however, that doesn’t mean it’s easy listening either. Actually, this is challenging material in its own right. The music doesn’t lend itself to a quick spin; it’s better appreciated when listened to from beginning to end in several sittings, letting the webs of instrumental wizardry unveil their enigmatic patterns.
On “Power Games,” tempos shift back and forth, from upbeat piano playing to a more subdued mode and then pushing forward again, perhaps illustrating the balance of authority in its title. “With Moderate Determination” displays the dazzling trio chemistry and “With Serious Determination” features the record’s most dynamic, dramatic highs.
Despite the contributed illustrations from Robert’s brother Maxon Crumb (the cover is a family portrait including Carollo himself as a spiritually adopted sibling), the whole album isn’t devoted to Crumb-mania, just the final suite, which is utterly breathtaking.
John A. Carollo: www.john-carollo.com