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Adapting the poetry of Wallace Stevens to music is an almost natural task for Frank Carlberg. The ex-lawyer turned insurance executive (Stevens not Carlberg) wrote from pure imagination. His early associations had been with the New York intelligentsia, including William Carlos Williams and Marcel Duchamp. Carlberg, a Finnish born pianist and composer has been a frequent collaborator with Indian vocalist Christine Correa. Their work includes the duo Ugly Beauty (1994) and The Crazy Woman (1996).
This Stevens project, significant for its blending of poetry and music, reminds one of Charles Mingus’ jazz workshop experiments. Carlberg enlisted the current who’s-who of young hot jazz talent: reedmen Chris Speed (Tim Berne, Human Feel, Pachora, Dave Douglas), Andrew D’Angelo (Matt Wilson, Either/Orchestra, Human Feel), Chris Cheek (Paul Motian, Stephan Furic), trombonist Curtis Hasselbring (Either/Orchestra, Satoko Fujii Orchestra, Ken Schaphorst), Bassist Ben Street (Kurt Rosenwinkel) and drummer Kenny Wollesen (Junk Genius, Sexmob, Slowpoke, New Klezmer Trio). Correa’s singing/recitations hint of Irene Aebi, Steve Lacy’s wife, only Correa’s vocals are tolerable, even enjoyable. Carlberg turns the music into theatre. There are brooding ballads “Say Of The Gulls,” pseudo-swing “To Change Nature,” and energized “Shaken And Shaken.” The soloing is outstanding, I can only guess who is who sometimes, but that’s life. Carlberg opens jazz to new possibilities in this new century.