Carver Trio is one of those rare groups that blend genres so effortlessly that trying to hang a name on this music will only give you a headache. Broken Sleep lies in the no-man's land where jazz and folk meet, and like fog wrapping itself around smoke it is next to impossible to distinguish one from the other. In this respect there are similarities with guitarist Simone Guiducci's excellent Gamelot Ensemble on Storie di Fiume (Felmay, 2007), or incomparable bassist Danny Thompson's wonderful Whatever(Hannibal, 1987).
What immediately makes Broken Sleep stand out is the absence of percussion, but the music exhibits plenty of color and motion nevertheless; Nathan Thomson's double-bass and Dylan Fowler's guitar provide rhythm, melody and subtle improvisations which preclude any necessity for drums or atmospheric percussion.
Luke Carver Goss's accordion adopts a similar multi-dimensional role, but it's such an evocative instrument that it naturally leads the way, coloring the tunes with just a hint of the blues of Buenos Aires, the air of Galician folk, or Basque flavors reminiscent of (accordionist) Kepa Junkera, a bagpipe-type drone, pastoral reverie, or a heady Balkan reel.
Soothing acoustic guitar, sparingly gentle bass and an accordion which flirts with melancholy yet keeps a foot planted in the sweetly serene melody characterizes the impressive opening title track, and provides the basic blueprint for much of the music on the album. The layering of several accordion tracks lends a chamber ensemble quality to the lithe and lovely "Simone," as guitar and bass provide a more energetic pulse.
There are four improvisations of between a minute and two minutes in length on the filimbi, a long flute from central Tanzania with neither finger holes nor mouth-piece, apparently, and played here with deceptive ease by Thomson; ethereal to the point of eerie, these pieces nevertheless contain great beauty and meditation, and act like chapter breaks. The second of the flute improvisations segues into the quintessentially English folk ballad "Rose in June," sung convincingly by Goss with subtle vocal harmonizing on the refrain from Fowlera song as delicate and alluring as a summer rose itself.
The empathetic interplay between the three musicians is noteworthy, and it is difficult at times to discern who is leading and who is supporting as the lines intertwine, provide support and counterpoint; the lovely extended piece "The Ruins" is a good example of the trio at its best. Elsewhere there is mystery in the moody "Six Passages," grace in the (pianist) Bill Evans-inspired waltz, "Portrait" and passion in "Virsi/Dawns Timo."
This is music inspired by beauty, and the result is music both inspiring and uplifting. Goss, Fowler and Thomson all play quite beautifully, and their combined ability to create so many contrasting moods, seemingly effortlessly, is testament to the organic feel of the music. Getting around to this CD a little late to include in my best of 2008, it's no matter; Broken Sleep would sit comfortably in the best of any year.
Broken Sleep; Simone; Lullaby; Breathe 1; Song; Breathe 2; Wagogo/Rose In June; The Ruins; Breathe 3; Six Passages; Breathe 4; Portrait; Virsi/Dawns Timo; Lament; Spin (for Lily); Towards Ramsey.
Luke Carver Goss: accordion, vocals; Dylan Fowler: guitars, Monticello, clarinet, vocals; Nathan Riki Thomson: doubl- bass, filimbi; flutes; Oli Wilson Dickson: violin (2, 7).
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