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...

381

Robin Williamson: The Iron Stone

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Scottish singer/multi-instrumentalist Robin Williamson continues to mine the nexus of traditional song and free improvisation on The Iron Stone. Back from Skirting the River Road (ECM, 2002) are Mat Maneri (viola and Hardanger fiddle) and Swedish traditionalist Ale Möller (on a plethora of instruments plucked, pressed or blown), while renowned bassist Barre Phillips makes his first appearance with Williamson. Departing from Skirting's verse by Walt Whitman, William Blake and Henry Vaughan, Williamson looks to Walter Raleigh, Thomas Wyatt, John Clare and Ralph Waldo Emerson for inspiration, in addition to his own words and music.

That traditional folk song and free improvisation can coexist so organically is what has made Williamson's work for ECM so uniquely compelling. The collaborations of Skirting and Stone are the brainchild of producer Steve Lake, who saw the potential for common ground between these musicians despite their apparent stylistic differences.

If Skirting proved his instincts correct then The Iron Stone takes things a step further with the recruitment of Phillips, who has worked with Maneri in a trio with father Joe Maneri since the late '90s. The result is a preexisting chemistry that makes the spoken word and almost telepathically integrated improvised music on Williamson's "The Climber dark and, despite its free nature, hauntingly lyrical.

Fairport Convention covered the traditional "Sir Patrick Spens on its classic Full House (Island, 1970) but, words aside, there's little in Williamson's take to tie it to Fairport's backbeat-driven version. Instead, Williamson's raw but evocative and oftentimes vulnerable voice winds its way through an arrangement driven by Williamson's delicately rhythmic Celtic harp, arco bass, viola and Möller's jaws harps. There are instrumental passages, but it's a collective approach to extemporization rather than clearly delineated solos.

As dark as the subject matter can sometimes be, there are moments of unequivocal beauty. "Wyatt's Song of Reproach is elegant and transcendent, while the Turlough O'Carolan instrumental, "Loftus Jones, demonstrates the quartet's ability to use temporal elasticity and nuanced interaction to create a lush soundscape that approaches the sheer calm of silence while drawing the listener ever in with its soft majesty. Even Williamson's "To God in God's Absence, a title that could suggest despair, is ultimately hopeful, supported by the instrumental ebb and flow of bowed strings and the occasional flurries of whistle.



The ensemble stretches the sonic possibilities of this already intrepid stylistic cross-pollination by including instruments from other cultures (the stringed, slide guitar-like Indian mohan vina and Chinese flute) and other times (the Renaissance-era double-reed shawm and Baroque-era brass clarino).

Traditionalists may find The Iron Stone too far removed to be credible. But Williamson and his group are forging a new approach to tradition, where greater interpretive latitude extends beyond fixed form and allows for greater textural, harmonic and melodic breadth. It's The Iron Stone's intentional departure from convention that makes it an album that's both reverent of its sources' epochs while remaining truly timeless and, ultimately, forward-looking.


Track Listing: The Climber; Sir Patrick Spens; Wyatt

Personnel: Robin Williamson: vocals, Celtic harp, mohan vina, Chinese flute, whistles, tabwrdd drum; Mat Maneri: viola, hardanger fiddle; Barre Phillips: bass; Ale M

Title: The Iron Stone | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: ECM Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
 

Drums And Dreams

Unit Records
2012

buy
Albatros

Albatros

Intakt Records
2011

buy
Le Voyage

Le Voyage

Intakt Records
2011

buy
Vol A Voile

Vol A Voile

Intakt Records
2010

buy
Albatros

Albatros

Intakt Records
2010

buy
 

Vol à Voile

Unit Records
2010

buy

Related Articles

Read Live CD/LP/Track Review
Live
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Humanities CD/LP/Track Review
Humanities
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Wild Is The Wind CD/LP/Track Review
Wild Is The Wind
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review
Fairytales
by Gareth Thompson
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Origins CD/LP/Track Review
Origins
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Bright Force CD/LP/Track Review
Bright Force
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 20, 2018
Read "Criss Cross" CD/LP/Track Review Criss Cross
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 22, 2018
Read "Codex" CD/LP/Track Review Codex
by Doug Collette
Published: December 3, 2017
Read "Urban Soul" CD/LP/Track Review Urban Soul
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 20, 2017
Read "Copenhagen Live 1964" CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by John Sharpe
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "Komitas:  Seven Songs" CD/LP/Track Review Komitas: Seven Songs
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 7, 2018
Read "Of Light and Shadows" CD/LP/Track Review Of Light and Shadows
by Phillip Woolever
Published: December 9, 2017