Ulrich Drechsler asks and answers the question: how can the saddest music in the world be delivered with so much hope?
Humans & Places follows Drechsler's loving tribute to Thelonious Monk on the 2004 disc The Monk In All Of Us, where his bass clarinet conjured the spirit of Eric Dolphy. On this quartet recording his music directs itself more towards Bill Evans than Dolphy. Perhaps the influence of Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen is what imparts this music with the stark emotions you would expect from Manfred Eicher's ECM sessions.
Gustavsen has now gained international recognition for his two ECM releases, Changing Places (2003) and The Ground (2005). His economy of playing, a kind of "less is more style, influences Drechsler's compositions and approach. Or probably it is more correct to state these two kindred spirits embody this sparse and beautiful presentation naturally.
The disc draws references to cinema. The music's ineffable sadness is reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch's Night On Earth vignette of a dark night in a Helsinki taxicab. Sure, Gustavsen is Norwegian, and that is probably like comparing White Sox fans to Cubs fans, but the darkness is evident. More importantly, the humanity within this darkness always shines throughout. For instance, the gentle melody of "Soulmates evokes Michael Legrand's "Windmills Of Your Mind, from the film The Thomas Crown Affair. The simple repetition of an emotional moment, coupled with the expressiveness of Drechsler's clarinet, is quite satisfying.
Whether it is the slow waltz or the ballad, this band remains tolerant of the mood, accommodating the measure of these compositions. Maybe patience is what's needed to turn very sad music into a redemptive experience.
Track Listing: For Andy, Dedicated To Desi; Soulmates; Graceful Touch; Where Time Stands Still (For