Laurence Cook: Tragedies of Love
Tragedies of Love
It is hard to think of a time when tedium was as pervasive in music as it is today. If listening to music hasn't become a chore, it has become the sound track to doing chorespart of the torture of our jobs rather than a relief or refuge from them. Contemporary commodity music holds the same station as the knock-knock joke. There comes a time in all our lives when we have reached our fill of the knock-knock joke. Same goes for macaroni and cheese from a box. The musically shallow also has a short shelf life and a fleeting high.
Musical depth and constant fireworks are their own oppression, or can be, albeit an oppression of a different sort. How many Pulitzer or MacArthur Genius award winners for music are on your i-Pod right now? Official culture bores and betrays on both ends of the spectrum.
Can you quantify a change in music's polarization? We seem to be able to quantify a change in the disparities between rich and poor. Is there a middle ground between the shallow tedium of commodity music and the often oppressive excellence of "award" music?
Trumpeter Bill Dixon often spoke about creating a music where the listener couldn't tell if it was composed or improvised. One brilliant manifestation of this strategy was Dixon's Son of Sisyphus (Soul Note, 1993), with drummer Laurence Cook. The paradox of that recording is that while it's unclear as to who is improvising or what is improvised, there is nothing ambiguous about the music on the recording.
Tragedies of Love operates with a musical language from which the listener can't tell what the genre was, or what the expected response was for them both as listeners and as members of a specific class, i.e., "near poor," "working poor," "1%," etcetera. This is a music for those first and foremost interested in music.
No doubt, the "free jazz" or "improvised" element is front and center. This is great news, as the free jazz or improvised element is the fountain head from which all music must at one time partake. In that instance, let all musicians give thanks and praise to Cook and alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs. There is however a composure to the pieces that challenge the image of improvisation as an easy to ignore, wriggling hose, spraying uncontrollably.
The pieces (the improvisations) evoke musical sentiments, tones and organizations so diverse that single titles (like free jazz) don't convey the totality of the situation. "Through Tear Dimmed Eyes" evokes sacred, ceremonial music. "The Scene in the Orchard" resonates like one of Carl Stalling's musically onomatopoetic, epic scores. " Rumored Return" satisfies "jazz" needs without being saccharine. "Magic Potion" is down tempo brilliance, Cook and Hobbs both playing with the utmost of elegance. "Banishment" is as taught, focused and measured as any lieder out of the Western tradition without any of the aforementioned tedium, presently in full flower.
Aesthetics aside, as operators of tools, the sonic quality coaxed from their instruments by Cook and Hobbs also transcends genre. Without capitulating to crass consumerism or gear fetishism, both musicians have given considerable attention to their kit. Hobbs has an encyclopedic knowledge of the saxophone-as-tool, and Cook a vast palette of drums and cymbals to suit every situation. The duo's sound is intentional and carefully tailored. If you care about or are interested in or titillated by sound in general, or sounds of the drum and alto saxophone in particular, Cook and Hobbs are to be heard at once. As such, it's also recommended for the improvisation "agnostic" looking for "proof."
Tracks: The Scene in the Orchard; Magic Potion; Banishment; Through Tear-Dimmed Eyes; Rumored Return.
Personnel: Laurence Cook: Percussion; Jim Hobbs: Alto Saxophone.