American novelist and short story writer Stephen King has said that he thinks his stories are "found things, like fossils in the ground...relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world." He goes on to say that, as a writer, it is his job to reveal as much of this fossil as he can. Interesting, and maybe true. If it is, that can be transferred to music. Sounds as found things, not in the ground but in the air, waiting to be butterfly-netted in or scooped up by an invisible antenna and played on an instrument, and/or recorded; timeless, undiscovered, preexisting sonic relics, with musicians acting in part as conduits.
All of this is speculative of course, and could be seen as a diminishment of the artist's contribution to the creative process. Given those speculations, let us consider British-born, Berlin-based pianist Julie Sassoon's gorgeously mesmerizing If You Can't Go Outside...Go Inside.
Recorded in 2016 at the rbb Kulturradio Studios in Berlin, these two extended solo piano "spontaneous improvisations over composition" performances have a deep immersion-in-creation feelingno words, no thoughts, only vibrations in the air, crafted from Sassoon's idiosyncratic energy. The twenty-minute opener, "At The Water Tower," sounds as if she sat down at the piano with her composition in mind and extended an antenna to a timeless and ever present wash of the music of the Universe, netting some of it in and applying it to the notes she wrote, to the scaffolding of her ideas. The tune has an appealing containment to it, an insistent rhythmic drivealmost Nik Bärtsch-ian in this respectwhich enters another dimension near the tune's end, when "my fingers began to spontaneously move at double speed, leading me somewhere I'd never been before."
Setting the process in motion, using a compositional idea as a springboard for an uncharted journey, the sound eventually going where it will, Sassoon's state of creation leads to something beyond her control, a repeated theme evolving to a free state and an openness to the flow of things.
And so goes Julie Sassoon, using a repeated pattern as a tool for going deeper, then higher, into herself. She follows up that entrancing opener with her twelve-minute "Murmuration" which begins with the mercurial composed section before shifting into a slower, more mystical spontaneityspare, fluid and introspectivebefore moving back to the theme, closing out an album which can be counted as one of 2021's top solo piano outings.
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.