3

Sean Noonan: A Gambler's Hand

Florence Wetzel By

Sign in to view read count
Sean Noonan: A Gambler's Hand Drummer Sean Noonan's A Gambler's Hand is an innovative musical suite that explores the world of a compulsive Irish gambler who finds himself trapped inside a wall. The project was conceived during a period when Noonan lived in a basement apartment and had a mysterious next-door neighbor; a man he never saw but could often hear screaming and pounding on the walls. Noonan thought perhaps his music and drumming would comfort the man, so he tried to communicate with him through the drums. This experience, combined with Noonan's ongoing interest in folklore and the work of playwright Samuel Beckett and the theater of the absurd, led Noonan to create this surreal musical tale, as well as a thirty-minute silent film where Noonan plays the gambler.

The project's musical configuration is also unique. Noonan has selected four of contemporary music's most talented and versatile string players, who bring his compositions to life with aplomb and create compelling improvisational interludes. However, instead of taking the traditional role of the drummer and sitting behind the band, Noonan sat in front of the group so the five players formed a circle. Noonan says, "I thought it would be quite interesting to intertwine or overlap the strings and percussion and treat it all as one organism." And, indeed, the group plays throughout with a superb cohesion and sense of one-mind creativity.

Each of the ten songs on the CD are full of beauty, with standouts including the luscious title track, which creates a wonderfully moody atmosphere—there's nothing like strings to depict the inner quiver of human emotions. "Caught in the Act" is full of urgency and passion, with Noonan's drums driving the strings to a heightened fury and flurry, and "Lully" has a lovely melody line, with the strings creating both a sweet poignancy and a nightmarish undercurrent. "I Feel the Clouds" is calmer, depicting a brief interlude of contentment in the gambler's tortured existence, and the CD ends with the exquisitely fragile "Monster of Solitude," going further into the crevices of the gambler's emotional world.

Noonan and the group are to be commended for this tremendous achievement, an imaginative and ingenious work that combines the power of storytelling with top-notch musicianship. The subject matter is also quite brave: Noonan goes right into the roots of loneliness and compulsion, the walls that we all get trapped in and the ways we try to express ourselves from within those flat, suffocating spaces. It's always inspiring when an artist takes a chance on a unique vision, and it's especially so when they succeed as beautifully as Noonan has on A Gambler's Hand.

Track Listing: A Gambler’s Hand; Caught in the Act; Lully; Banshee Dance; Thank You; Ghost Quarters (Improv Canon); Triptych (A Far, No Silence/Forced Meatballs/A Far, So a Far); I Feel the Clouds; Courage Unleashed; Monster of Solitude.

Personnel: Sean Noonan: drum set, percussion, conductor, composer; Tom Swafford: violin; Patti Kilroy: violin; Leanne Darling: viola; David West: cello.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings | Style: Modern Jazz


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Nightfall CD/LP/Track Review Nightfall
by John Kelman
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Pekka CD/LP/Track Review Pekka
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 22, 2017
Read In the Still of the Night CD/LP/Track Review In the Still of the Night
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Zea CD/LP/Track Review Zea
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Asian Fields Variations CD/LP/Track Review Asian Fields Variations
by John Kelman
Published: May 21, 2017
Read Left Right Left CD/LP/Track Review Left Right Left
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Noumenon" CD/LP/Track Review Noumenon
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 26, 2016
Read "The Outlier" CD/LP/Track Review The Outlier
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 22, 2016
Read "The Last Remaining Payphone in L.A." CD/LP/Track Review The Last Remaining Payphone in L.A.
by Paul Naser
Published: October 18, 2016
Read "Peace and Love: A Tribute to Will Connell" CD/LP/Track Review Peace and Love: A Tribute to Will Connell
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 28, 2017
Read "Which Craft?" CD/LP/Track Review Which Craft?
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: November 30, 2016
Read "A Room of One's Own" CD/LP/Track Review A Room of One's Own
by Ian Patterson
Published: August 10, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, and provide read access to our future articles.