259

Clark / Thorne / Fell: Isthmus

Robert Spencer By

Sign in to view read count
In the liner notes to this unique recording, violinist Graham Clark explains that his trio's idea was to "produce some beautiful and interesting music without having written anything beforehand. This is a 'warts and all' recording."

Maybe, but it is largely wart-free. Clark, bassist Jon Thorne and drummer Milo Fell are remarkably attuned to one another. Clark, as the lead voice, is a consistently melodic and pleasingly inventive violinist. Like the pianistics of his old boss Keith Tippett, occasionally his lines recall folk melodies. Always they are tonal and catchy. On "System X" he plays with some long tones as Fell pounds out replies, but that is about as ear-stretching as this disc gets. This is a disc to play for someone who asserts that free improvisation can never be conventionally beautiful or immediately pleasing music for those who are not looking for a catharsis or an experience of high art.

Moreover, this trio is groove-heavy: "Bang On!" and "Dagobert" are funky (on "Dagobert" listen to Clark wind polyrhythms around the beat with bursts I would describe as Ornetteish except for the fact that this man can really play violin). "Second Thought" is bright. "When in Rome" is rattling and bouncy; Clark again briefly recalls Ornette at the beginning, but quickly plays lines far beyond anything Mr. Harmolodic's violin ever dreamed of.

All three musicians are masters of their instruments. Clark is everywhere on his violin, but he never loses Thorne or Fell. I searched for Billy Bang and Leroy Jenkins in his sound, and while they both no doubt deserve nods, Clark is no one's man but his own. On "Lonestar" he and the bassist weave a lovely ballad that, despite its unsettlingly abrupt ending, I was going to pick out as the highlight until I got to the other ballad, the title track "Isthmus." On this track Clark's stated intention to bridge "a gap between free improvisation and jazz" (!) reaches its apotheosis.

On the more adventurous side is "Buffalo Wings," where Fell drums out a tricky palette for Clark to work; he navigates it back to swingville with particular aplomb. "The Secret Shortbread" has Thorne working over a powerful ostinato pattern courtesy of Thorne.

Fresh and pleasant from start to finish, Isthmus is a new look at what top-flight musicians can accomplish with free improvisation. Highly recommended.

| Record Label: GAS | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Cross My Palm With Silver CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read One Minute Later CD/LP/Track Review One Minute Later
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 28, 2017
Read JK's Kamer +50.92509° +03.84800° CD/LP/Track Review JK's Kamer +50.92509° +03.84800°
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 28, 2017
Read Ephimeral CD/LP/Track Review Ephimeral
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 28, 2017
Read Fly or Die CD/LP/Track Review Fly or Die
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read Speechless CD/LP/Track Review Speechless
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Love Dance" CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Carolina" CD/LP/Track Review Carolina
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 5, 2016
Read "Live At the Stone" CD/LP/Track Review Live At the Stone
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 29, 2016
Read "Clockwork" CD/LP/Track Review Clockwork
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 13, 2016
Read "Traffic" CD/LP/Track Review Traffic
by Dave Wayne
Published: September 8, 2016
Read "An Untroublesome Defencelessness" CD/LP/Track Review An Untroublesome Defencelessness
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 22, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!