Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bob and Ellen Weller

This recent Circumvention disk is a Weller family affair - Bob plays (prepared) piano, Ellen a variety of wind (flute, but also sax, clarinet, fife, recorders, ocarina, jaw harp), Charlie mastered it and Danny gave constructive appraisal. Point of Contact (052) is by Bob and Ellen Weller with Mark Dresser (who plays bass on 4 tracks, but in a lennon/mccartney-ish gesture it states 'all tracks are composed by Weller/Weller/Dresser).

The overall feel of the album is decidedly modern classical/experimental/avant-gardish (yes - hard to describe: modern classicalperhaps) in terms of the harmonies and rhythms, and less freeform 'jazz'. The prepared piano provides percussive aspects, at times solo but usually in conjunction with the winds - in an equal not supportive role. Ellen's playing traverses the flute possibilities without overuse of voicing, and is expressive and fluid - and nicely balanced/broadened by the other instrumentation. There are 15 tracks across the album, and I won't try and describe them all. The first 9 are a loose collection which include Coalescence - a lovely trio with a Middle Eastern line to it; Cassini-Huygens which is a contemplative bass/flute duo, flute solo (Mandelbrot), clarinet and some inside the piano playing in Concatenation and the extended exploration of Spiral galaxy whose ten minutes are used to great effect to explore the relationship in the duo. There is some lightness too, in the jaw harp and ocarina of Strange attractor. In the tracks with Dresser the bass adds a distinctive tone that underpins some of the more extravagant flights such as Collusion which gets quite frightening at times!

Point of contact is a suite of 4 short tracks (Point of ... contact, departure, no return, impact) which is where the modernist side emerges strongly as the balance between piano and wind changes. In the first the piano is more stable while the flute trills, things then become more punchy as sax replaces flute. In the third the wind is smooth, the piano more jagged while finally the sax is playful and the piano running with a big chord to close.

Finally there are Two marches: Fog of war and Aftermath. These are imagistic pieces - the first seems lighter with both flute and sax providing colour but becoming more edgy towards the end: the first flush of optimism in a war. In the aftermath the reality sets in -flute and clarinet play a military piece (whose name escapes me) which becomes mournful, while the piano is fractured behind it - a powerful metaphor, and a strong conclusion to a similarly strong and inventive album that asks a lot of the listener but which repays the investment.

No comments: