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Nobu Stowe / Lee Pembleton: Hommage an Klaus Kinski

Budd Kopman By

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The evocative and haunting Hommage an Klaus Kinski has the subtitle Total-Improvisations on Sonic Canvas, which states the roles of the recording's two main protagonists: pianist Nobu Stowe and sound designer Lee Pembleton.

Stowe continues here with the kind of music represented on the Brooklyn Moments and New York Moments (both Konnex, 2006), where he desires his improvisations to be "spontaneous songs" with a tonality and a melody in the manner of his main influence, Keith Jarrett. Pembleton uses his electronics to create sounds (as opposed to discrete notes) which at many times evokes clear imagery while reacting to Stowe in real time.

The three duos ("I-A," "II-E" and "II-B") give the clearest idea about their individual sound and musical relationship. Stowe is a full-bodied player who knows how to make the percussive piano sing. He can move between styles, ranging from gospel feints to a very classically modern and atonal sound with ease. Even in the densest, most intricate passage, however, one can always hear a melodic phrase being worked out.

Pembleton is in complete control of his electronics, following Stowe as the emotional content of the music demands, although there are times when Stowe appears to follow him. At times, birds and rain can be heard; elsewhere, large space or chaotic whirls are created. Visual images also play a part with Pembleton and Stowe The fact that music by itself can create mental images does not preclude the use of Pembleton's non-musical sonics; however, the synergy between Stowe and Pembleton varies.

The trios ("III-B," "II," "Hommage an Klaus Kinski" and "'Round Midnight") add Ross Bonadonna (also the recording's engineer) playing bass clarinet, alto saxophone or guitar. His extra voice allows Stowe to play more of an accompaniment role to the lead voice, the pianist is so strong he ends up leading most of the time, while creating the piece's structure.

The title tune is special in its suggestion of a relationship between the music, filmmaker Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski. The connection came to Stowe after the fact, but the floating style that emerges remains something special. Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight," is the only track built on pre-composed material, and its unique melodic structure is hinted at well before it is played outright, with Pembleton's supporting soundtrack adding another layer of mystery to this wonderful rendition.

The two quintets ("III" and "I-D") are the longest tracks, and include the saxophonist/clarinetist Blaise Siwula from Moments, clarinetist/ocarina player Perry Robinson from Soul In The Mist (Ictus Records, 2007), and drummer John McClellan. The sounds get very dense, especially when Stowe's left hand reaches to the piano's depths and merges with Pembleton's sonics. Siwula and Robinson are both strong players and Stowe can be heard responding more often.

While Hommage an Klaus Kinski is not the easiest music to gestalt, it is well worth the repeated effort.

Track Listing: Duo I-A; Quintet III; Trio III-B; Duo II-E; Quartet; Trio II; Quintet I-D; Duo II-B; Hommage an Klaus Kinski; 'Round Midnight.

Personnel: Nobu Stowe: piano; Lee Pembleton: sound design; Perry Robinson: clarinet, micro-ocarina (2, 5, 7); Blaise Siwula: tenor saxophone, alto clarinet (2, 5, 7); John McClellan: drums (2, 7); Ross Bonadonna: bass clarinet, alto saxophone, guitar (3, 6, 9, 10).

Title: Hommage an Klaus Kinski | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Soul Note

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