Violinist Mark Feldman
has long been a consummate sideman, with well over a hundred appearances in that capacity over the course of his career dating back to the 1980s. His inimitable technique and fierce lyricism render him a perfect fit in so many different contexts: in 2020 alone he could be found reunited with the Arcado Trio on Ivo Perelman
's Deep Resonance
(Fundacja Sluchaj) and as a pivotal part of Susan Alcorn
's terrific quintet on Pedernal
(Relative Pitch). Feldman's own releases have unfortunately been much rarer, unless one counts his superb co-leader dates with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier
, the most recent of which was Time Gone Out
(Intakt), in 2019. One has to go back to 2006 for an album with just his own name at the top: What Exit
(ECM), where he was joined by John Taylor
, Anders Jormin
, and Tom Rainey
. His solo recordings are even rarer than that, with only one, Music for Violin Alone
(Tzadik), from 1994. All of which makes this splendid solo release, Sounding Point
, very welcome indeed.
Those familiar with Feldman's work will recognize that irrepressible energy that surges from his instrument on "As We Are," as flurries of notes, both bowed and plucked, pour forth in inexhaustible supply. For someone so attuned to working sympathetically with colleagues, often by adjusting and delimiting his role accordingly, it's a wonder to hear him without restraint. Which is not to say that there's anything self-indulgent about Feldman's music: his prodigious talents are always in service to a larger vision, and that is also the case here, as well as on his other recordings. Snatches of melody and brief motifs emerge and are pursued, refracted and redefined, but always with a guiding logic. And on a somber piece like the title track, the delicate beauty is almost heartbreakinghelped, in that instance, by some effective multitracking that accentuates the emotional vulnerability so often apparent in Feldman's improvisations.
Feldman uses multitracking on a couple other pieces as well. "Viciously" offers a cleverly demented re-working of the Walter Gross standard "Tenderly," in what sounds at times like a small battalion of violins determined to break the tune down into its component parts, with the melody only emerging fitfully. And on Ornette Coleman
's "Peace Warriors" he uses a second and third violin to create an intricate dialogue during the piece's seven riveting minutes.
But those tracks aside, Feldman has more than enough creativity to spare in his unenhanced playing. Whether on the dazzling "Unbound," which extracts its potency by alternating dense clusters of notes with long, sustained ones; or "Maniac," which has all the malignant undertones one would expect, Feldman allows each piece to unfold its own sound-world. Feldman has an abundance of ideas on Sounding Point
, and at just under 45 minutes it seems that another solo offering is more than justified. Hopefully, we won't have to wait another twenty-some years for the next one.
As We Are; Sounding Point; Peace Warriors; Unbound; Viciously, Rebound; Maniac; New Normal.