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Hubert Nuss: The Book of Colours

Dan McClenaghan By

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Music is a treat for the ears, for the sense of hearing. But are the borders separating the senses permeable? Can Red Garland's piano notes be said to "sparkle?" Can Paul Desmond's alto saxophone have the sound of a dry martini? Are these metaphors, perhaps, based to some extent on realities along a continuum of sensory perception?

Quite possibly. Someone with the condition of synesthesia can experience flashes of color upon hearing a sound. Pianist Jessica Williams hears a particular musical note and sees it as a distinct color. Denny Zeitlin, a pianist also, goes into a sounds-experienced-as-colors synesthesia when he is locked into the zen flow of a musical performance. And maybe the experience exists, to a greater or lesser extent in everyone.

Hubert Nuss' The Book of Colours is a good argument for the semi-permeability of the membranes separating the senses. The German pianist is fascinated by colors and the nuances of the interplays (harmonies) of the hues, and he has crafted an painterly collection of sixteen tunes full of colors arranged into a gorgeous symmetry on this superb trio outing.

The set is composed of sixteen Nuss originals, short explorations of nuance, subtlety and refined, delicate beauty undertaken by the pianist and his trio-mates, bassist John Goldsby and drummer John Riley. In addition to a love of color, Nuss seems also to harbor a fascination with geometrical shapes, such as one might see in the view in a kaleidoscope, a symmetry born of the reflection of a jumble of irregularly-shaped shards; or in the facets of gemstones, on tunes like "The Amethyst" and "The Dark Diamond of Donezk." Then there's his interest in the beauty—via color and geometry—of stained glass, as on "Coloured Daylight Cathedral."

Stylistically Nuss' sound is close to that of John Taylor, or Marc Copland, with a touch that is gentle and cerebral, molding complex, Oliver Messiaen-ian harmonies and searching for deep and elusive truths in, for example, the majesty of the grand scale and silent galactic obedience to gravity on his "Galaxy NGC 300."

The Book of Colours is an enchanting listening experience, especially for those of a careful listening frame of mind. Nuss may not enjoy a high profile in the United States, but he most certainly deserves one. This CD, on a dynamic and busy record label, should help that cause.

Track Listing: The Three Doomed Men; The Colours of Tyrus Wong ; Galaxy NGC 300; Night Stars; The Pictures of Charles Blanc-Gatti; Alia; Mirror Universe; For Jamey; The Dark Diamond of Donezk; Another Kind of Paris; Coloured Cathedral Daylight; Barry and Ollie; The Art of Dominique Louis; The Water of Life; The Amethyst; Bloomed.

Personnel: Hubert Nuss: piano; John Goldsby: bass; John Riley: drums.

Title: The Book Of Colours | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Pirouet Records


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