Catler Bros.

Catler Bros.
Knitting Factory Alterknit Theater, New York, N.Y.
March 16, 1997

Just Intonation is a way of tuning instruments to intervals of whole number ratios. This is common in most non-western musical traditions. When mass production of the piano was started in the 1800’s, tuning was standardized to 12 tone equal temperament in the western world. In this century, modern post-classical composers like Harry Partch, La Monte Young and Ivor Darreg showed the way for composers interested in expanding their musical resources beyond 12 tet tuning.

At the Knit, Jon Catler, Brad Catler and Jonathan Kane showed that these tuning concepts can be used in the loose improvisational context of rock and jazz fusion. Not the lame Love Boat/Doctor’s office fusion of Kenny G. but a loose fusion of East/West jazz & Hendrix blues rock. Sort of like-raga-but-not-raga: modal.

The majority of the set was filled with tunes from the new Catler Bros. Crash Landing cd. Using a guitar with interchangeable fret boards, Jon Catler played mostly frettless guitar and occasionally 49 tone just intonation fretted guitar. Brad Catler played fretless bass with a truly gritty rock and roll tone and Jonathan Kane provided rock solid drumming through out the set.

For me, one of the revelations of the evening was Jon’s extended solos on fretless guitar. Apparently his fingerboard is made of steel like the Indian sarod. This enables him to get a harder tone than I’ve heard from guitars with a wood fingerboard. He could control feedback in a unique way by sliding around. Unlike a guitar with a vibrato arm where the strings go slack and the strings change tone, the strings on a fretless instrument retain their tone. Two of the non-album tunes covered by the band were Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing and Ornette Coleman’s Free.

The Catler Bros. have been around New York for years with their own special blend of tuning and guitars. This version of the band is also known as La Monte Young’s Forever Bad Blues Band appearing on Just Stompin’: Live at the Kitchen (Grammavision). Both Jon and Brad have been frequent performers at the American Festival of Microtonal Music and will return for this season’s concert series. In April 1997, Jon Catler will be playing Harry Partch’s original Adapted Guitars I & II in the Newband’s production of Oedipus at the Modern Museum of Art.

David Beardsley
Originally published online at Juxtaposition Ezine.

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