Vibes, bass and drums make an interestingly different rhythm section, one that Bobby Hutcherson long ago used to help jazz musicians reach new places without exiling them from their origins. One musician the master vibraphonist helped was Eric Dolphy, who is mentioned in this set's notes. Quite right, there is some Dolphy in Sam Bardfeld, who plays violin very well, on the lyrical side.
On "There Could Have Been More of It," a nice track, Sean Conly's bass pins things together. In the course of Tom Beckham's vibes solo, Satoshi Takeishi's drums seem to get excited themselves, understandably. And on "I Was Basking in It," the heat really builds up in Ron Horton's trumpet solo. But the trumpet, bass and drums don't make a loud noise; there's no need to shout.
Serge Gainsbourg's "Je t'aime" was a lovely choice. It features a nice violin solo, then the leader self-effacingly lets the trumpeter take the really key one, which segues into some interplay with the violin and eventually swoops woozily. The original recording was banned from British radio because of Mme. Gainsbourg's presence as a vocalist, with a sort of talking that segued into sounds one presumes she made when they were together in private.
These guys do like their separate implements to sound pretty togetherlike the lovely combination of trumpet, violin and bowed bass at the beginning of "Portrait of Jessica." Various harmonic and rhythmic features of "Harry's Mambo" identify it with hard bop conceptions, but it's relaxed rather than driven, with translucency and a pulse. The music stays in jazz territory while finding attractive sonorities elsewhere; Beckham's vibes on one occasion echo Caribbean tuned drums. "Dream of the Doppelgänger" closes the recording with some strongly mainstream jazz elements, playing respectfully with some conventions. There's none of the broad parody that's usually marked by a lack of affection and excessive cleverness. It's good humour without trivialisation.
Seven dispersed tracks (averaging somewhere between 25-50 seconds each) comprise a narration written and delivered by Bardfeld with background sounds. At worst, this curious tale of Saul the krummhornist (a saner version than his other vocation as a master of the Universe) is a big improvement on inconsiderately curt gaps between musical tracks. If it helped these musicians not take themselves too seriously, allowing them to concentrate on the music and its virtues, it shouldn't be condemned. This recording has depth and happiness, sounding downright decent, enterprising and musical.
Track Listing: Chapter I; Saul's Long Night (parts 1,2,3 & 4); Chapter II; Beal; There Could Have Been More
Of It; Chapter III; I Was Basking In It; je taime... moi non plus; Chapter IV; I.M.M.A.T.R.I.D.;
Chapter V; Portrait of Jessica; Harry's Mambo; Chapter VI; Flood; Chapter VII; Dream of the
Personnel: Sam Bardfeld: violin; Ron Horton: trumpet; Tom Beckham: vibraphone; Sean Conly: bass;
Satoshi Takeishi: drums; Danny Blume: electronic, piano and percussion (1,3,6,9,11,14,16);
Curtis Hasselbring: megamouth (1).