Tales Without Words
One year after the release of Live, Corrie van Binsbergen hits the
bull's eye again with Tales Without Words. Funny thing, her new album is in
many ways the opposite of its very good predecessor. Well, let's backtrack a
bit, shall we?
Live featured the line-up called Vanbinsbergen Playstation - an
octet rich with colours, which already sounded like a band in spite of their
recent formation - inside a framework which highlighted the exuberant feel of
the whole and the excellent solo performances of its members. It was not merely
"music for solos", though, since the instrumental colours and the
movements of the sections told without a doubt of a quite attentive
arranging/compositional work. In a nutshell, it was the kind of album that in
the privacy of my home I'll have my friends listen to, introducing the work
with words such as "It's a very good jazz album you're going to listen
Tales Without Words is a very different album, in a way much more
ambitious. Jazz is not absent here - and how could it be, given the leader's
writing style and the "pronunciation" of the featured musicians? But
this is a more polychromatic album, which completely reveals its colours in
It goes without saying that all the best intentions in the world
are bound to stay on sheet music if the technical side proves to be lacking,
something which definitely doesn't happen here. Recorded by Chris Weeda at
Fattoria Musica, 24 and 25 January 2016. Mixed by Chris Weeda at Studio
Rapenburg. Mastered by Darius van Helfteren.
sounds on the album appear in front of a "black" background, which
highlights them. Music is not merely "photographed" - listen to those
"liquid"-sounding cymbals on the first track, sounding hyper-real;
also, those various percussion instruments appearing here and there; also, the
bass clarinet shown in extreme "close up" when in solo mode, showing
its wood. An active mixing work, very well done. And an excellent mastering work
that invites listeners to turn the volume knob to the right.
CD cover features the tag "Music Inspired By
Literature And Poetry". Here's a direct quote from the CD booklet.
"Over the last few years I have composed music for many literary concerts
where writers tell their story live and I create a musical scenario based on
the story. I then arranged some of these compositions for the band and took
them to the studio."
Those who played what. Mete Erker on tenor sax and bass clarinet.
Miguel Boelens on soprano sax and alto sax. Morris Kliphuis on french horn and
cornet. Joost Buis on trombone and lapsteel. Corrie van Binsbergen on guitar.
Albert van Veenendaal on prepared piano. Dion Nijland on double bass. Yonga Sun
Recording sessions lasting (just) for two days and the
circumstance of having to deal with unfamiliar material favoured an
"exploratory spirit" that in Mingus times I would have thought was
easy to detect "in the grooves".
This is an album that's surprisingly accessible, ideas being
presented with great clarity having no small part for its
"user-friendliness". That this music needs a quiet room and the
listener's undivided attention goes without saying.
Listeners will notice the very musical and extremely logical way
sounds appear in the stereo spread, highlighting the arranging choices - the
opposition of "dark" brass and "bright" reeds, of winds and
guitar, and so on.
Let's have a quick look at the individual tracks.
Night Sky opens with a mid-tempo ostinato, double bass and hi-hat,
drums, those aforementioned "liquid" cymbals, theme for guitar in
middle register, then piano, then winds, sounding quite dark, as a counterpoint
to the guitar. Then it's time for a "singable" theme performed by
guitar and bass clarinet in unison mode. A second time, by guitar and alto or
soprano. The "wood" sound of the bass clarinet appears over piano,
drums, double bass, and guitar. Back to the theme, again with guitar coupled
with alto or soprano, then it's guitar and winds as a counterpoint. The track
ends with guitar, high-pitched percussion, and a "pedal" from winds.
Pagan Goddess 1 starts with prepared piano, then a chord from
winds, it's a track that makes great use of "empty" space; there's a
piano progression in rubato, unison winds, piano with "sustain"
pedal, playing in the low register.
Pagan Goddess 2 starts with winds blowing, a fine snare played
brushes, reeds with mute/plunger going wha-wha, in rubato, then, french horn.
There's a fine theme for tenor and alto in unison mode with the guitar appearing
in the right channel. A "plunger" close.
Pagan Goddess 3 has a theme shared by "dark" and
"bright" winds, fine brushes. A solo for alto, with "dark"
winds acting as a counterpoint, brief pause, then it's time a great guitar solo
with lotsa harmonics and a very fine "rock" timbre, going from Jeff
Beck to Frank Zappa (think: Rat Tomago-Filthy Habits), with fine backing from
winds, piano, and cymbals.
Dreamlike 1 is a pointillistic episode, with lonely sounds, piano,
drums, percussion, trombone, french horn, guitar, in a mysterious mood. Long
solo passages from french horn plus trombone, pedal from winds, muted sounds,
Dreamlike 2 is basically a unison wind arpeggio, acting as a brief
interlude between longer, more complex, episodes.
Dreamlike 3 starts with a piano arpeggio, then alto, brushes, a
fine crescendo, light moments from guitar.
Circles & Squares is a brief improvised episode, quite
percussive, made of particles, with instrumental "mumblings",
featuring mutes, double bass, and a pinch of metallic sounds.
Point Of No Return starts with a mid-tempo piano arpeggio, ride
cymbal, double bass, a dark-sounding theme, then it's time for a guitar solo
with volume pedal, nervous vibrato, "Indian"-sounding microtonality,
with the instrumental background getting progressively louder, slowly
enveloping the guitar, a nice arranging touch. In closing, highly rhythmic
riffs from winds.
Sketches In Dark Blue 1 starts with slow figures from the guitar,
double bass, percussion, a "soft" entrance from the winds, all placed
over a "dark" background. This is a piece that makes great use of
Sketches in Dark Blue 2 starts with ruminations from the bass
clarinet, then a piano ostinato with winds counterpoint. Again, it's time for a
very meditative-sounding bass clarinet, then winds appear - soprano, cornet -
then the guitar through a wha-wha pedal.
Sketches In Dark Blue 3 starts with solo guitar, with double bass
ostinato and percussion, playing a clean melody in the middle register. Playing
just a few well-chosen notes, the double bass comes to the fore - in the
opposite channel, there's a mix of high sounds from guitar and cornet that for
a moment reminded me of the music by Michael Mantler - together with a very
percussive cymbal and an austere-sounding piano that widens at the close of the
track. Which fades out.
Dance Of The Mayfly starts with an ostinato figure, an arpeggio
from guitar with reverb, backing from double bass, cymbals playing time, and
something that sounds like a theremin (maybe a lap steel with a shitload of
compression?), fine blowing from tenor, with hi-hat and double bass, this is
definitely the most accessible episode on the album. The tenor gives way to the
alto, then it's tenor again. Drums, and the track fades out.
Wake Up Call For A Lethargic Planet is an improvised episode, with
long, "hushed" tones from winds, a solemn air, single notes from
piano and guitar, percussion, it reminded me of some grieving moments in the
Art Ensemble Of Chicago oeuvre - think: People In Sorrow. Fine timbral mix from
the winds, from trombone to soprano.
Lament features a sorrowful theme for french horn playing just a
few notes, with fine backing from the double bass, and winds blowing in the
background. There's a change of pace, a dramatic entrance by the rhythm
section, the french horn gets a fine solo, with precise wind backing. Guitar
chords, mutes. At the end of the track, there's a fine moment from the double
bass - over a winds background - with a fine suspension effect sounding halfway
between Charles Mingus and The Art Ensemble Of Chicago.
© Beppe Colli 2017
CloudsandClocks.net | Apr. 13, 2017