No one will ever accuse cellist Matt Turner of being predictable. His work in a variety of situations (on cello, piano, and voice) has a restless quality that renders it ephemeral and elusive. Both of his solo records have been very adventurous in approach. Last year's fine Outside In (with pianist John Harmon) represented an high point for Turnera recording of sustained clarity and vision.
On Patina, Turner turns inward. This record consists of fourteen solo cello improvisations, all heavily processed in real time. (For an striking antecedent to this sort of work, look to eclectic violinist Jon Rose.) It's essential to note that the pieces on Patina were not spliced, edited, or doctored up in the studio. (Four are overdubs, however.) So what you hear retains the spark of creation in the moment, and that endows the music with both inspiration and vulnerability.
The cellist approaches his instrument in very unconventional ways on this disc. The opener, "Scraps," features odd circular scratching noises that shuffle up and down the midrange, rarely settling into any sort of groove or formation. Scratches, cuts, and various glitches dot the piece. It's a declaration of independence, asserting freedom from convention. Accordingly, it requires a step back from the usual jazz norms. Patina is more about soundscape, as evinced through texture, color, and the unpredictable stroke of the brush, than it is about tunefulness.
While the opener may be a bit turbulent, it leads to lovely, subtle variations in color. The very quiet "Grain" has an undulating wave-like quality that suggests the wash of the surf. "Drez" rings out with bell-like clarity, closely resembling the odd, deep resonance of a Tibetan prayer bowl. "Space Cathedral," which sounds like its title, has the most striking melodic character of any piece on the record.
Patina is not for the faint of heart, but it's a very creative and often revealing document. Of course, there's a certain amount of bewilderment involved in the listening process, but the record is more about question than answer.
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Personnel: Matt Turner: silent cello and electronics.