Unlike most of our country where we can not even share the same basic facts and truths, musicians intuitively seek out, discover and discourse in an integral, common language. Pathways revels in and celebrates that common vocabulary.
Enjoying what could be the most prolific and adventurous period of his Juno Award-winning career, guitarist/oudist Gordon Grdina's sixth recording in just under a year, including the brazenly alluring Boiling Point (Astral Spirits, 2022) and the hypnotic Oddly Enough: The Music of Tim Berne (Attaboygirl Records, 2022), Grdina, once again joins forces with pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist Mark Helias for further expansive excursions in and around the human psyche. As the trio firmly established on their first outing together, Skin and Bones (Not Two Records, 2019), bold proclamations and shadowy insinuations are their kindred specialty. An engrossingly emotional experience, each player here works with and against the other two to maintain an epic flow of ideas and consequence.
Shipp, his left hand more seismic than usual, digs into Grdina's music, taking time to command it, surrender to it, and cut swaths of his own through the dense harmonic thicket. Scored by Grdina's guitar and Helias' open strings, "Palimpsest," its contemplative undertones drifting, unwinds as Shipp maneuvers weightless between the two, set the stage for Pathways to shape and configure to the listener's imagination as well as to the dexterity of the trio. The kinetic "Deep Dive" chatters and sputters into an unruly existence until it simply coils upon itself and is gone in a cloud of Shipp's chording. Two advance stage tone poems, the striking "Pathways" and the pulsing "Trimeter" make for the album's spiritual core and emotional center. Separate but equally subversive, the two tracks delve darkly into each man's musical code and understanding. And thus it is with the whole of Pathways.
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