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Billie Davies: Hand In Hand In The Hand Of The Moon

Budd Kopman By

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Free drummer Billie Davies calls Hand In Hand In The Hand Of The Moon a symphony, which implies composition, larger planned structures, etc. Nothing like that is here, as the music was improvised and recorded in one session. However, this music is not just a free session of highly intuitive and sensitive players; it has a reason for being, and that reason is the intersection of the life paths of two artists working in different media -Davies, a musician and Serge Vandercam, a painter, at specific time and place.

In correspondence, Davies described their meeting and subsequent relationship: "That is a long story that started with me re-discovering the CoBrA art movement after having been away from all that culture, I was surrounded by in Europe and that represented my inner self, my roots and my energy, for too long. Serge Vandercam became the absolute what purity of expression is concerned to me, and I had to meet this man. So after searching for a while to get his phone number, and found it, I called him up just like I did with many other artists... We became friends on the phone, and talked for hours, between Brussels and San Francisco, and finally about three years later, in 1993 I think, I went to visit him in Brussels while I was in Europe visiting my family in Bruges. I so believed in his art as being a true and pure expression, that I got him a one-man show at a Gallery in San Francisco in 1995, that night there was a light beam shining up in the city, his art was electrifying and it was during that time also, as he was staying with me for about a month, that we created the work, him painting and me playing the drums, in the three days of the full moon. I remember one night, I realized I did not know who I was anymore, I woke him up by calling him, there was a nine hour difference, and I cried it out to him, that I did not know who I was anymore and what I was supposed to be, and he just yelled back at me to stop whining like a little girl and to listen to what he had to say: "YOU ARE AN ARTIST, accept it and get over it, I wake up every morning and go to bed every night asking myself who I am! You are an artist, and never ever forget that again."

Now, of course, the music stands on its own without all of this introduction and references; but there is no doubt that looking at the Vandercam's paintings from 1995, which are reproduced in the liner, does affect the listening experience. The liner also contains Davies' translation from the French of a poem by François Jacqmin:

One has to give that justice to art,
That it brings proof that nothing functions.
It establishes that there is no use,
Not for the universe,
Not for religion.
It's flagrant uselessness makes one discover that something,
Of which no-one gave much thought,
Suddenly becomes essential.


Why art? From where comes the creative urge? Music, in general, is extremely abstract, and reaches our emotional center through some unknown conduit, sometimes changing our lives forever. Jazz lives on the boundary of art and entertainment, and can exist in each world, performing different functions.

However, improvised creative music that ventures beyond "style," that aims for direct emotional communication from player to listener, can become "Art With No Purpose" other than to exist for the time it is played. Recording the ephemeral almost becomes a sacrilege.

Davies obviously misses the spark, the condensed energy that was Vandercam and wanted, no needed, to connect back to her memory of him, to bring his being into the present if only for a short time.

Hand In Hand In The Hand Of The Moon is the result of that need, and it is some of the most heartfelt music you will ever hear. The opening "Prelude" solo piece by Davies introduces a rhythmic figure (tik-tik boom, boom, boom) that kind of pervades the entire work. It has the sound of sadness, longing and loss, but also something of a New Orleans musician's funeral march, which, however, with a subtle change, can swing.

Each subsequent piece, named for the painting which inspired it, is listed on the liner also with a key/tonal area (representing chakras) and words or phrases that represented the emotions surrounding the painting and playing of Vandercam and Davies back in 1995: Life, To Feel; Grounding, To Have; Creation, To Speak; Love, To Love; Power, To Act; Insight, Wisdom, To See; Transcendence, To Know.

All of this might sound heady and somewhat mystical, but, somewhat paradoxically, it is that abstract thing, music, which condenses these emotions, managing to make them concrete. In the end, you will end up somehow knowing Davies and Vandercam (as well as the band members).

Words and music can be like oil and water, so there is nothing else to say but that Hand In Hand In The Hand Of The Moon is an experience not to be missed.

Track Listing: Prelude: Hand In Hand In The Hand Of The Moon; Hand In Hand; In The Hand Of The Moon; Hand In The Hand In The Hand Of The Moon, Listen To The Bird; As She Tells; The Shark In The Hand; Tiburon; The Bridge.

Personnel: Billie Davies: drums; Alex Blaine: tenor sax; Branden Lewis: trumpet, Evan Oberla: trombone; Ed Strohsahl: double bass.

Title: Hand In Hand In The Hand Of The Moon | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Cobra Basement

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