Thursday, November 21, 2013
Gordon Grdina - No Difference
Gordon Grdina - Oud, Guitar, Bowed guitar
Mark Helias - Double Bass
Kenton Loewen - Drums
Tony Malaby - Tenor Saxophone
I was not familiar with Gordon Grdina’s music before No Difference, although I was aware of his long association with the Songlines label, dating back to 2006. The fact that he played the oud made me wary, I have to admit, because to my ears it has a more limited tonal range than the guitar. Also, it invariably means World Music influences, which too many times when combined with jazz only serves to water down each idiom instead of produce a compelling hybrid. The supporting cast on No Difference, however, helped dispel some of my apprehension: Drummer Kenton Loewen was also unknown to me, but Mark Helias and Tony Malaby are compelling players.
No Difference is an eclectic affair. The pieces, all by Grdina, are a mix of studio and live performances, ranging from duos with Helias to a trio track to quartet tracks with Malaby. Grdina has been quoted as saying he has tried to hear Wayne Shorter’s and Albert Ayler’s music through the guitar, but his single note lines and slightly distorted tone on the electric reminded me more of late 60s/early 70s fusion. Tony Malaby adds a lot to the quartet tracks, with gritty improvisations that retain a tie to the underlying melodies.
The part of which I was most unsure, the duets with Mark Helias and Grdina on oud, I probably enjoyed most of all. Helias offers the perfect level of support while providing his own melodic lines. Grdina’s Middle Eastern-influenced themes have an authentic feel and intensity as well.
No Difference has a split personality, but if you're a guitar fan or a fan of Middle Eastern music it won't matter to you.