Mournful. That's the adjective that springs to mind when Dutch musician Yuri Honing blows his saxophone on Bluebeard. "Blows" is something of a mis-description though: Honing's considered approach to his instrument is closer to caressing. His sound and approach are mirrored by his bandmates, who are equally adept at such a distinctive form of creativity. The resulting album is the perfect partner for a few minutes of quiet, individual, reflectionan ideal way to diminish stress and wallow in the beauty of the music.
It comes as something of a shock, therefore, to realize that the album is dedicated to (but not celebrating) a serial killer from European folk tales who marries and murders a succession of wives. With this knowledge, some of the songs gain a more melancholy edge, a darker presence pervading tracks such as "Bluebeard's Maze." Other tracks retain their mournful tone, the fragile beauty of "Narcissus," for example, keeping the darkness at bay. The splendidly-titled "The Art Of Losing Isn't Hard To Master" (a title taken, possibly, from the opening line of Elizabeth Bishop's poem One Art) moves at an almost glacial pace, but immediately grabs the attention and holds it for every second of its five-minute length, an immersive, sad and beautiful tune. It's followed by "She Walked In Beauty Like The Night," another title taken from a poem's opening line, this time one of Lord Byron's (although Byron uses the present tense). This song and the album closer, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," share an urgency and dynamism that's absent from the rest of the tunes. As "Do Not Go Gentle" fades, Honing's tenor sax is at its loudest and most frenetic, taking Dylan Thomas's instruction to heart.
Another poem makes a central appearance, its words bringing a new layer of meaning to Honing's instrumental compositions: Edna St Vincent Millay's 1917 Sonnet 6: Bluebeard. Honing recites the wordsa re-imagining of the legend that seems to speak of mistrust and betrayal rather than deathover a backing of harmonium and vibes. The sonnet alters the impact of the music, its closing lines reinforcing the sadness that pervades this lovely and involving album:
"And you did so profane me when you crept Unto the threshold of this room tonight That I must never more behold your face. This now is yours. I seek another place."
Bluebeard Maze; A Room With A View; Narcissus; The Art Of Losing Isn't Hard To Master; She Walked In
Beauty Like The Night; Bits Of Paradise; Sonnet No.6 Bluebeard; Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.
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