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...

8

Lisa Ullén: Piano Works

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Pianist Lisa Ullen has followed her muse big time with Piano Works, a three-CD box-set of unaccompanied pieces, recorded in 2017. A native of South Korea, Ullén grew up and lives in Sweden, where most of her activity remains centered. She may be best known for her work on Anna Högberg's Attack (Omlott, 2016) and the collective foursome Festen (Clean Feed, 2016), but her discography goes back to 2006 with the first of several dates for her Quartet, which includes trombonist Mats Alekint, issued on her own Disorder imprint, and also documents a long-standing collaboration with bassist Nina de Heney.

Although the title of the box suggests compositions, listening reveals constructs which often have the open-ended unresolved feel of improvisations. Each disc comprises a number of shorter pieces, under five-minutes, almost miniatures in some cases, and one longer track around the ten to thirteen-minute mark. Ullén takes a measured approach at the cusp of improvised music and contemporary classical, with silence also a big player. Cecil Taylor and John Cage might provide touchstones, but what Ullén does cannot be confused with either.

An air of mystery pervades the three discs. Ullén conjures a rich drama from basic but abstract materials which avoid overt melody or sustained rhythm, denying easy emotional connotations. She often shows herself fond of the bass register as on the rousing "streets," where a galumphing figure alternates with more fluid runs, or "hollow part 1" where she makes the piano resonate with dark sonorities. Ullén exploits her considerable two-handed independence unostentatiously, exploring the contrasts between the opposite ends of the keyboard in "the gap one." At times, those contrasts can be seen as a stretched-out call-and-response, but elsewhere she layers and juxtaposes the different elements.

Her under-the-bonnet excursions on prepared piano form especial highlights. On the extended "specter" she fashions a doomy, atmospheric ambience from humming strings, dampened keys, echoes of gamelan and tolling notes. Similarly on "yesterdays" she creates enthralling theater from abrupt gestures amid shimmering strings evoking a metallic harpsichord. The final twenty-two-minute disc, entirely performed on prepared piano, is brooding and enigmatic, embracing keys plopping like raindrops on "hollow part 2" and lurching, music-box formulations on "hollow part 6," via a rippling legato which edges into the prepared sections of the keyboard, interspersed with ghostly notes, odd pauses and harp-like tones on "hollow part 4."

Although a deeply personal set, it is not entirely introverted. It is easy to imagine some of Ullén's lines as acerbic and bracing contributions to larger group exchanges. And through it all resides the sense of a fiercely-focused intelligence at work.

Track Listing: CD1: link; up north; wood; needle; streets; uphill; the gap one; specter; step; layer; CD2: the gap two; treble and bass; the place; writhe; yesterdays; glow; apparition; chair one; chair two; psalm; CD3: hollow part 1; hollow part 2; hollow part 3; hollow part 4; hollow part 5; hollow part 6.

Personnel: Lisa Ullén: piano, prepared piano.

Title: Piano Works | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Disorder

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Piano Works

Piano Works

Disorder
2018

buy

Related Articles

Read Kinship CD/LP/Track Review
Kinship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 18, 2018
Read Ask For Chaos CD/LP/Track Review
Ask For Chaos
by Gareth Thompson
Published: August 18, 2018
Read Homage to a Dreamer CD/LP/Track Review
Homage to a Dreamer
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 18, 2018
Read Live At Cafe Amores CD/LP/Track Review
Live At Cafe Amores
by John Sharpe
Published: August 18, 2018
Read Passion Reverence Transcendence CD/LP/Track Review
Passion Reverence Transcendence
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: August 17, 2018
Read Inner Voice CD/LP/Track Review
Inner Voice
by Don Phipps
Published: August 17, 2018
Read "Spiderwebmandala" CD/LP/Track Review Spiderwebmandala
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 12, 2018
Read "Copenhagen Live 1964" CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by John Sharpe
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "Frank Salis" CD/LP/Track Review Frank Salis
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 20, 2018
Read "Back to the Sunset" CD/LP/Track Review Back to the Sunset
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 7, 2018
Read "The Songbook Project" CD/LP/Track Review The Songbook Project
by Don Phipps
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "Is That So?" CD/LP/Track Review Is That So?
by Jerry D'Souza
Published: April 9, 2018