Friday, 29 June 2007

Mark Feldman...

OK, time for the full version of my review of that Mark Feldman CD, now known to be available in an abridged form on the ECM web-site!!

Not much needs to be said - this is a fine piece of work and there is no subtext of disapproval to be found anywhere. Austere and at times uninviting, it rewards anybody patient enough to step through the walls of it's long, trompe l'oeil opener. I always wanted to use that phrase in a review, and I'll probably never get a better opportunity than I did here!!

If anybody has a favourite phrase that they'd like to see included in a future review, feel free to drop me a line...

What Exit
(ECM 1928)

Arcade; Father Demo Square; Everafter; Ink Pin; Elegy; Maria Nunes; Cadence; What Exit.

Mark Feldman (vn); John Taylor (p); Anders Jormin (b); Tom Rainey (d).
Recorded 2005.

A few years ago I’d have found it unimaginable that violinist Mark Feldman could be a leader of an ECM recording session. With roots in Nashville, via New York’s ‘Downtown’ scene (he’s still a regular in John Zorn’s Masada String Trio), Bill Frisell is his nearest antecedent at the label. In today’s jazz however, lines are less rigidly drawn, and the violinist, who was always more of a Stefan Winter man in my book, has already amassed a small body of work for Manfred Eicher as a sideman with both John Abercrombie and Sylvie Courvoisier.

For the occasion of his ECM leadership debut, an intriguing transatlantic quartet was assembled. Swedish bassist Anders Jormin joins English pianist John Taylor and Feldman’s former Chromatic Persuaders colleague Tom Rainey, is the wild-card on drums. Sometimes spiky and at others impressionistic, often atonal yet in places unashamedly melodic, the music of What Exit is shaped to a large degree by the characters involved in its making.

The long opener ‘Arcade’, some 22 minutes in length, is a vast trompe l’oeil statement, and a far from obvious way to begin an album. Starting quietly, doom laden chords give way to abstract fragments that are then scattered before the listener, the piece going through a sequence of chamber-ish movements before slowly coming together in vividly clear form, like a landscape revealed through clearing fog. ‘Father Demo Square’ is something of a Feldman standard, and Taylor fans will enjoy the pianist’s forthright solo on the piece. For a moment you could be forgiven for thinking you’re listening to a conventional jazz quartet.

‘Everafter’ soon complicates this reassuring notion, returning us to Feldman’s world, a world where classical music and the composer’s long view are every bit as important as improvisation. ‘Ink Pen’ is another familiar Feldman theme, as slippery as his work with the shape shifting string trio Arcado. Rainey runs wild on this piece, perhaps a release from what is some pretty muted work by his standards elsewhere on the disc.

Feldman’s tone is as pure as the best of them, and by the time we reach the beautiful ‘Elegy’ I was well and truly under his spell. ‘Cadence’ is the disc’s most instant hit, with its simple melody and tender Taylor vamp, whilst the title track makes for an appropriate parting shot, condensing Feldman’s stylistic kaleidoscope into a handy bite-sized chunk. What Exit offers an impressive summary of Feldman’s often overlooked talents, and I hope that he now receives wider recognition on the back of it. Strongly recommended.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, November 2006)

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