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...

235

Tethered Moon/Kikuchi, Peacock, Motian: Play Kurt Weill

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
An album with a sake barrel of promise going for it but which doesn't ultimately hit the spot.

It doesn't, for starters, serve up the kind of music which you might reasonably expect from its title. As with Tethered Moon's other themed albums—pegged on the music of Piaf, Hendrix, and Puccini—the source material on this reissue is treated in the main cursorily, not something to be dug deep into but functioning instead as a series of miniature launchpads for freestyling, almost unconnected improvisations, led and shaped by Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi. The set could almost be titled Play John Cage for all the difference it would make. Only rarely, notably on "September Song" and "Speak Low," do Kikuchi, bassist Gary Peacock, and drummer Paul Motian really get inside Weill's music and play it.

While this might be a missed opportunity, it doesn't in itself invalidate the group's approach. And it wouldn't matter anyway if Tethered Moon, which includes two of the world's most creative and responsive improvisors, really kicked in as an interactive, shared-purpose unit. The fact that they mostly don't may in part be because Tethered Moon is an occasional and intermittent project. Since forming in '91 the trio has averaged one album every three years. Play Kurt Weill, first released in '95 and now reissued in remastered form, was the third.

The group is, in reality, not a collective, but a project curated and directed by Kikuchi—in fact, just one of his many and varied projects, also including the funked-up electric manga mash the All Night, All Right, Off White Boogie Band, solo recitals, and electronica. His astringent, alyrical style, which somehow manages to be both fitful and predictable, doesn't really mesh with either Peacock or Motian. Indeed, at times you wonder why those two musicians have stuck with the project for fifteen years. (And inevitably also wonder if you're failing to hear something blindingly beautiful in the music. Maybe I am, but I don't think so, and indeed there's a distinct suggestion of the Emperor's new clothes or at least a folie a trois about this one.)

I've been hard on the album because its source material and players might seem to promise so much. It is not without some memorable moments—most notably "Speak Low," in which Motian takes a more assertive and forward role than he does for most of the time, and on which the group does achieve a sustained burn of collective momentum and beauty. But such moments are infrequent.

Now, can you imagine the heaven that Monk Plays Weill might have been? Or which Enrico Rava Plays Weill still could be?

Track Listing: Alabama Song; Barbara Song; Moritat; September Song; It Never Was You; Trouble Man; Speak Low; Bilbao Song; My Ship.

Personnel: Masabumi Kikuchi: piano; Gary Peacock: bass; Paul Motian: drums.

Title: Play Kurt Weill | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Winter & Winter

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Read more articles
Play Kurt Weill

Play Kurt Weill

Winter & Winter
2005

buy
Experiencing Tosca

Experiencing Tosca

Winter & Winter
2004

buy
 

Chansons D'Edith Piaf

Winter & Winter
1999

buy
 

First Meeting

Winter & Winter
1997

buy
 

Play Kurt Weill

Winter & Winter
1995

buy
 

Triangle

Winter & Winter
1993

buy

Related Articles

Read Day to Day Album Reviews
Day to Day
By Paul Naser
May 24, 2019
Read Theia Album Reviews
Theia
By Jim Worsley
May 24, 2019
Read Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You Album Reviews
Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You
By Dan McClenaghan
May 24, 2019
Read Nexus Album Reviews
Nexus
By Jakob Baekgaard
May 23, 2019
Read The Second Coming Album Reviews
The Second Coming
By Daniel Barbiero
May 23, 2019
Read Luminária Album Reviews
Luminária
By John Sharpe
May 23, 2019