Gordon Grdina's Box Cutter
Sometimes it happens that I find a mysterious object in my mailbox.
This time it's a recent release by a quartet called Box Cutter, whose leader
- at least, judging from the way their name is worded - appears to be Gordon
Grdina: a guitar player whose name I'm sure I've already seen elsewhere
(but where, exactly?) in a review I read of a CD he recorded alongside
familiar names such as Gary Peacock and Paul Motian.
features a quartet which - for the instrumentation used, and for the music
they play - I'll call "jazz". We have the leader's guitar, which
to me sounds like an acoustic with a piezo mike at the bridge, or sometimes
like a semi-acoustic with a pick-up; François Houle's jazzy, sometimes
bluesy, clarinet; Karlis Silins's double bass, which rarely comes to the
fore but is always clearly audible; Kenton Loewen's drums, quite often
played using brushes. Though not good enough for a Grammy®, the recorded
sound never misrepresents the material, and with just a couple of (very
minor) overdubbing we have a group playing "live" (in a studio).
The material is not bad at all (by the way: who's the composer? the liner
notes offer no indication, nor the CD itself!), and the musicians all play
as being familiar with each other's moves. Here and there there's something
that sounds a bit strange, such as a comping guitar not really in tune
with the clarinet, or the clarinet itself sounding out of tune in one track:
those things I think should had been taken off the final master, since
they are noticeable, and disturbing.
this point, before going deeper into my description, it's my duty to warn
readers of my age-old aversion (which at this point looks like it will
never go away) towards "jazz guitar". (What's a "jazz guitar"?
Well, it's a difficult thing to define, but I can recognize one within
hearing two notes.) This is what "guitar" meant to me at the
tender age of seventeen: Eric Clapton, Vince Martell, Robin Trower, Mike
Bloomfield, Robert Fripp, Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa, Jorma Kaukonen, John
Fogerty, Jimi Hendrix. This is what my reaction was at that time upon hearing
guitarists such as Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessell: "you
call this a guitar?". And I have to admit that - from John Abercrombie
to Pat Metheny, from John Scofield to Bill Frisell, both live and on record
- I've never really changed my mind. (Which doesn't mean I won't pay my
money to see Russell Malone with Christian McBride.) (And Liberty Ellman
with Henry Threadgill!)
me, the theme to Titlewave, which opens the album, sounds quite a bit like
70s-era Braxton, with a nice clarinet and irregular moves; both guitar
solo and clarinet solo, however, so full of swing, can be placed inside
a pre-Ornette frame of reference; the same is true of the "cool" theme,
for clarinet, with drums played using brushes, of the following track,
Cworky. I could define the theme to Kenton & I, where a "classic-sounding"
guitar solo is followed by a "noisy" interlude, as being quite
a bit reminiscent of Eric Dolphy. Soft and smooth, almost like a soundtrack,
Pads is played on two clarinets. Say has a joyous theme, almost a bossa,
played on clarinet, and vivacious solos.
sounds pleasantly démodé, with a ¾ theme played by clarinet, again
drums with brushes, and a clear double bass. Origin is also Dolphy-like.
Soul Suite left me puzzled: after an airy start, the theme is - in my opinion
- very reminiscent of Wayne Horvitz's style: but Horvitz would have organized
the material quite differently, first of all by making the track a lot
shorter. Two interesting tracks come at the very end: the jerky theme,
and the interesting development, of Albert The Monk; also Platform, where
a very nice second part has two overdubbed clarinets with a solid backing
by the rhythm section.
put it in a nutshell: had I seen the group live, I would not talk about "a
wasted night out"; but I really find the existence of this CD (which
is miles too long, when compared to what it has to say) a bit hard to explain.
© Beppe Colli 2007
CloudsandClocks.net | Mar. 4, 2007