The work of guitarist and percussionist Steve Tibbetts breaks free from most forms of jazz tradition out there; the music is out there, too, with little that's traditional - or even jazzy - about it. But it offers hypnotic pleasures wherein instruments are totally in sync and create rhythm in favor of melody. His latest, A Man About A Horse fits comfortably into its worldly roots, and might be a fitting soundtrack for the latest Luc Besson science fiction epic. It sustains a style wherein music is almost totally presented as background essence; even Tibbetts guitar work seems hidden precariously in the background.
With Horse, that hidden quality is both the work's best and worst quality. The tonal compositions are striking, and the moodiness is sustained throughout the album, especially on the ten-minute-plus track, "Black Temple," a middle section of an enclosed trilogy within the album (starting with "Red Temple" and concluding with "Burning Temple"), which has a lively yet smooth undercurrent. Yet, for all these amenities, they have a tendency to grow tiresome - unpredictability can become predictable if not employed sparingly. It's the album's use of liveliness, in takes like "Glass Everywhere," fairly edgy work, that resurrects it from its comfort zone of mood and tone while failing to get fully under your skin. More to my liking was the terrific, "Koshala," which has a sturdier, swifter tempo that counterbalances the leisurely mood of percussion and Tibbetts' guitar strings.
While music like this might best be enjoyed on a calm, rainy day, the album's repetitive nature (inherent in this kind of music form, for better or worse) ultimately results in a lack of strong musical differentiation, making it easier to appreciate the subtle craft that goes into the work rather than fully praise on the whole.