All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

3

Peter Madsen: Never Bet The Devil Your Head

Troy Dostert By

Sign in to view read count
It isn't essential to be a fan of Edgar Allen Poe's uncanny writings to enjoy pianist Peter Madsen's musical tribute to the author, Never Bet the Devil Your Head. But readers familiar with Poe's disturbing fiction will absolutely appreciate the thoughtful touches found in abundance on Madsen's album. With the help of the Seven Sins Ensemble, an Austria-based octet Madsen first utilized on 2012's Gravity of Love (also on Playscape) that includes a string quartet in addition to standard jazz instrumentation (piano, bass, trumpet, drums), Madsen has a terrific opportunity to explore the darker recesses of the human imagination with style and verve.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the album is how relatively "unscary" it is. Rather than choose obvious devices designed to bring about fear and trembling, Madsen instead goes for a subtle approach intended to unsettle: to evoke an understated feel of something being not-quite-right. It's a sensation that Poe was, of course, an expert in generating. So for example, on the ten-minute opener, "The Raven," Madsen allows the unaccompanied strings to set the mood with just a trace of dissonance and a gradual surging of ominous momentum, paving the way for a hard-driving groove from the rhythm section, with the strings complementing the other players perfectly to create some of the album's most engaging music. It's not exactly frightening —but there's enough weirdness to sustain the track's inventiveness for the duration.

This is a first-rate ensemble, and the strings are integral to the project: they relish their solo space just as much as Madsen himself or trumpeter Herbert Walser, whose solos shine with clarity and vigor throughout the album. But as strong as the musicianship is, it's the care Madsen put into the compositions themselves—each based on a Poe story—that makes the record special. The pieces feel unique, with just enough structural complexity to serve as ideal vehicles for exploring Poe's bizarre thematic world. In commenting on the creation of each piece, Madsen explains how he read through its corresponding story first so that he could "capture the feelings and ideas" of the text. Each of the ten tracks bears the traces of that creative process, whether in the ethereal reverie of "Dream Within a Dream," with an especially haunting muted solo from Walser; the creeping menace of "Tell-Tale Heart;" or the album's captivating closer, "Descent Into the Maelström," where Madsen's exuberant and tumultuous solo summons the piece's evocation of a hurricane destroying a ship at sea.

Madsen's most striking choice occurs on "Cask of Amontillado." One of Poe's truly troubling stories, it involves a man gaining vengeance on an adversary by burying him alive; but Madsen gives it a strangely bouncy and playful rhythmic treatment. Even here, however, Madsen's approach works well, and perhaps even more so by avoiding a clichéd strategy. For Madsen, as with Poe, life's mysteries are most powerfully revealed through whatever is most unexpected and unconventional.

Track Listing: The Raven; A Dream Within A Dream; The Tell-Tale Heart; The Cask Of Amontillado; The Sphinx; Never Bet The Devil Your Head; The Fall Of The House Of Usher; Mesmeric Revelation; The Masque Of The Red Death; A Descent Into The Maelström.

Personnel: Peter Madsen: piano; Herbert Walser: trumpet; Aleksandra Lartseva, Monica Tarcsay: violin; Simon Frick: viola; Bianca Riesner: cello; Herwig Hammerl: bass; Martin Grabher: drums.

Title: Never Bet The Devil Your Head | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Fat Daddy CD/LP/Track Review
Fat Daddy
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Short Stories CD/LP/Track Review
Short Stories
by Gareth Thompson
Published: September 19, 2018
Read UHHM CD/LP/Track Review
UHHM
by John Bricker
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Decoy CD/LP/Track Review
Decoy
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller CD/LP/Track Review
Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Change In The Air CD/LP/Track Review
Change In The Air
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 18, 2018
Read "Groovin' With Big G" CD/LP/Track Review Groovin' With Big G
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 4, 2018
Read "Bright Force" CD/LP/Track Review Bright Force
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 19, 2018
Read "Memory/Imagination" CD/LP/Track Review Memory/Imagination
by Jim Olin
Published: May 8, 2018
Read "Dreams" CD/LP/Track Review Dreams
by Jerome Wilson
Published: January 7, 2018
Read "II" CD/LP/Track Review II
by Kevin Press
Published: November 7, 2017
Read "Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album" CD/LP/Track Review Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 1, 2018