Steve Tibbets has taken an approach on A Man About a Horse that brings his open-minded view of improvised music together with an urgency of personal expression. I found Tibbets' mix of world music and jazz very exciting and interesting. A Man About A Horse gradually unfolded from my speakers and entranced me. On first listen, it sounded like Kid A era Radiohead filtered through a Far East sense of percussion. Tibbetts seems as though he wants to take the listener to new places, and he succeeds.
Tibbetts recorded this album just before he went in for surgery on his hand. While cleaning his gutters at home, he was attacked by a swarm of wasps; he lost his balance on the ladder and fell breaking his hand. As unfortunate as that should be for a guitarist, Tibbetts viewed this as an opportunity. Before the surgery, he laid down hours of guitar work. He then mixed and dissected everything using computers. While this makes the album sound beautiful, it leaves one feeling a little cold. Some of the rough edges you expect from a jazz musician were gone. The first tracks all seem to bleed into one another and none of the songs take on a distinct personality. Then, after his "Temple trilogy," we hear "Glass Everywhere". The feel of the album changes from mesmerizing to a sense of urgency. He seems to enunciate his guitar playing more on this track. Following that we have "Lochana" and "Chandoha" which really up the ante and allow Tibbetts to break free from the previous tracks monotonous beauty. The overall sound stays the same, but the less is more theory comes into affect. Both tracks find Tibbetts exploding his guitar onto the, up until now, serene work. "Chandoha" is truly a free track with Tibbetts guitar running wild throughout. Tibbetts then brings us back to the tranquil and serene with the beautiful album ending "Koshala".
Each track seems to be entrenched in world music, yet Tibbetts still adds some spark and fire to the proceedings. While nothing explodes out at you, you leave feeling as though at any moment that could all change. A Man About A Horse leaves you wondering if there should have been more, which makes for excitement and interest upon repeated listenings. That is what good music should do for you.
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