This is my first CD review for this Blog. I have talked about artists I like, music styles/forms I like, even albums I like but never strictly an in depth review of one record. I was contacted by the bass player, and he sent me a record, and I must say, I really dig it! So onwards, I have listened to the album several times, and as far as I know, all completely free improvisations for piano trio, and now will talk about the album. I caught a quote from Mark Dresser talking about how gifted these musicians were, and thought to myself, "Well if he recommends it, then I can't wait to give it a listen!" Here goes:
TRACK ONE: "Phases in Blue"
I side note about this, I'm going to listen to it now again straight through and type up my thoughts. I will probably compare some things to musicians that I already know, just because I can only talk about what I know from previous experiences. So far a nice open intro with bass and drums, and a pause, and here enters muted piano with the open-ness of extended Keith Jarrett Trio records. I noticed that upon my first listen that there were moments throughout the record that reminded me of the free wheeling excursions piano of Keith, with a more contemporary bass/drums background. Completely in its own way and take on it, the drums at this point remind me a little of what Dave King does with the bad plus, but if you were take the more genre hints out of Dave King. As with any free recordings, I am curious if the music or the titles came first, just trying to listen to the recording and think about the title in mind. I hear more of a whirlwind with this one. And a lot of wonderful WOOD of the bass, I love hearing the wood come out! Sort of an abrupt but natural ending, Dig!
TRACK TWO: "Laura Lee"
Nice, there was some real quiet ambient sound that started the track off for a second before the piano came in. The percussion going on almost sounds like there is some junk metal involved, like some small pots/pans, or tiny cymbals or something, I like! Nice huge bass sound on this, really great interaction between the trio, everyone listening and leaving space for another, can really hear them using their ears. It almost sounds, in the piano, like there really is a written tune in there, which is an element to free improvisations that I personally really like. The rhythmic counterpoint with all the metal sounds of the drummer adds a good touch to the piano melody. We Have A Rallying Pitch! There is some great repetition of a single pitch in the piano, taking up by the bass, that is building into something really wonderful! Disjunct variation on a one note theme! And a pause for a short and fitting coda!
TRACK THREE: Civilization of Mud and Ember
The piano started with the same harmonies of the ending notes of the last track. This makes me wonder if these improvisations were totally back to back to back, or how they were recorded, if they were recorded in the order that was then on the record. Interesting synchronicity either way! Now that we are on to the third track, I'm hearing some patterns in the vibe of the group (which may break off as we go farther). Definitely some more coloristic drumming so far, as opposed to any strict time feel or meter, but I don't know if I would even call it broken time. Either way I am trying to analyze it in a stream of consciousness way, and am just writing what I am hearing as it comes to me. Seems like this tune has more waves of things happening, a rise and fall of musical ideas. Nice piano closer to this...I think I am drawn to the endings of the tunes a lot, because they all (so far) seem like these very nice well placed new ideas, or short recaps of what was just heard. Also it's great to hear variation, just the piano playing, verses the trio playing all the time.
TRACK FOUR: The Floor
For some reason, before listening to it, I'm picturing the phrase "four on the floor." Back to inside the piano...some of the most mystical sounds of new music in my opinion. Like George Crumb meets Anthony Braxton's rhythm section! I've been specifically tuned into the drummer a lot on this listen through of the album, and I like how everything to me sounds coloristic, but orchestrated in completed different ways each time...that takes creativity! Cool hammering on sounds on the bass, with this lush piano music...I would love to see a new painting representing the sound of this current duo! The balance between the seemingly opposed musical ideas is incredible well placed, with the drums fading into and back out of what the bass player is doing. Some of the music reminds me of well thought out solo piano music, with incredible rhythm sections counterpoint that plays with or against the piano ideas.
TRACK FIVE: Tale of Two Worlds
Quiet tremolo bass, muted piano, sparse percussion...a recipe for wonder! Starting a slow crescendo and build with all the instruments, well paced, and all together, each one of the trio filtering out of the mix little by little. I like the repetition of simple ideas, which I have been hearing off and on throughout the record, gives something for the listener to attach their ears to, instead of constantly moving in completely new directions at the drop of a hat. I also really dig the dynamics, all these quiet things building and mutating quite naturally into themselves. Gorgeous chords, some snare work that is starting to hint at being in time, but nope, just a hint! There it is again, some toms and drums hinting at time for just a second, just as the piece closes, but never a groove (in the traditional sense) achieved. Dig!
TRACK SIX: ONE
I really am enjoying how the pianist is playing the whole piano, low range, high range, inside the piano, or not inside it, muted strings, the whole lot...just using the entire freakin' thing! Some really great synchroncity so far on this track between the bass and the piano figures...first time that the bass has really jumped out to me in the mix with some fuller counterpoint with the piano. Now bending the string over the neck ( I always consider this a Charles Mingus sound, first person I heard use it). Again, the drummer never ceased to amaze me in his ability to get so many sounds out of his instrument, while continuing to play fresh "out of time" ideas...man what a treat! AHH, I can't harp on it enough, but you guys really know when your improvisations are over...they are always perfect endings!
TRACK SEVEN: Hindu Pedagogy
Interesting title, I am expecting some Indian scales/Raga sounds now from the beginning before having heard anything. This sounds familiar now, I don't know if this really just stuck in my ear from already listening to it several times, or if it is hinting at an earlier track on the record. This is so far the most "in time" thing I have heard upon this listen, which is refreshing! There is a nice underlying groove to this, that seems to be blissfully played against in the bass, but the drums/piano are covering it nicely. Like an earlier comment, it would be great to see an artists' rendering of the sound on a canvas! After more of the ethereal sounding music, this adds a nice variety to the CD with its repetition and groove. Great de-structuring of the piece right at the end!
TRACK EIGHT: Annex
This is the most I think I have heard yet of just the bass and drums, without piano. Also refreshing! And the piano sneaks in like an underwater shark fin coming up out of the ocean! The music is already slightly sinister, and the threat of the muted low piano bass note brings a mystique to the track. Short and darkly sweet!
TRACK NINE: No Abhor
Backtracking to all the tracks already heard on this listen...I am enjoying more than most things the sense of composition to all the music, knowing (from reading the given notes) that everything is made up of free improvisations. It still sounds like free improvisations, but you could make an argument to someone that they are composed out themes. There are transcribable tunes and ideas within all of these pieces. Space and balanced trio playing on this recording, like everyone knows where their instrument fits into the mix in perfect spacial harmony. I found a video clip online of a black and white film to this specific tune, and it was very fitting, this tune seems very cinematic, while I myself can imagine a storm a brewing, and shots of flowing water, and a mix of open land scenes. Another groove happening right at the end of the tune, it starts to settle into something, but only a hint of it before breaking out and ending.
TRACK TEN: In Between
The last tune on the record and the longest. Strap in, and here we go! Slapped bass harmonics, repeated low piano bass hits, broken up percussion, and mix of what will come! Repeated piano pitches, now in a higher octave, and being slightly split into other things, and then repeated single pitch again up another octave...helping shape the improvisations higher and higher into new territories. Gorgeous and minimal chord progressions swoop in from time to time reminding us that there is more out there, but sparse enough for me to forget what key center we may be in. A single pitch can take us anywhere, can be harmonized in any direction, is so open that who knows what freedom may be achieved! Six minutes in, and the pianist is stayin' on it! And now the drums and bass have subsided, and we're still in the bliss of the single note piano, and now the bass has re-entered with a new thought and new way to add to the landscape at hand. The drone is putting me in a trance, and the drums are adding their quiet ritual background of sound. The pure dedication of the continutation of the note is awe inspiring, as if Charlemagne Palestine was seated at the piano, but with added improvised percussion and bass. Now nine and half minutes, and the drone keeps on, the drone of time, the drone of wisdom, the drone of maturity, the drone of the ever present moment. The title is in between, maybe the drone is the in between feeling of being in between breaths while in deep meditation. Or the drone of living, being in between being born and dying. A powerful drone, and a powerful piece to end a beautifully played and recorded album.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to listen and talk about such great music!
*Not that this group has to, but I would love to hear what the compositions would sound like, if these that are on the CD are totally free.
**As one last, by the way, I still am curious how they came up with their name, the Dawn of Midi, considering, as far as I know it's an all acoustic group, sans electronics.