Monday, January 13, 2014

Blaser/Delbecq/Hemingway - fourth landscape

Samuel Blaser
Benoit Delbecq
Gerry Hemingway
fourth landscape
Nuscope Recordings

Samuel Blaser - Trombone
Benoit Delbecq - Steinway D Piano, Novation Bass Station
Gerry Hemingway - Drums, Percussion, Mouth Harp

fourth landscape is an album that strikes that perfect balance between composed and improvised materials. I believe it was Coltrane who first called improvisation “spontaneous composition” and the improvisations here are so well placed within the structures created that it becomes hard to tell where one stops and the other begins. In fact, it wasn’t until my second spin of landscape that I was sure it wasn’t an entirely free improv affair. 

Inspection of the cover reveals that all the pieces are, in fact, composed, four by Delbecq, four by Blaser, and three by Hemingway. Marc Chenard’s illuminating notes state that ten of the eleven selections were communicated via traditional notation on score paper. The CD cover is my only nit concerning the project, for Nuscope has gone away from their signature look that features original art, and instead used a prosaic photograph of water.

Those who have heard Delbecq’s releases on Songlines such as Circles and Calligrams and The Sixth Jump, know that he has a very unique style that utilizes some prepared piano techniques for a percussive effect, particularly in the lower register. I think that he sometimes overuses this approach, but here again the word “balance” comes into play, as he syncs up with Hemingway to establish percussion-based phrases that sound inspired by African rhythms. Elsewhere, he contributes sparkling single-note runs and even a little synthesized bass, very sparingly and tastefully, to bolster the group sound.

And what remains to be said about Samuel Blaser? There is seemingly no end to his imagination or his ability to fit in perfectly in any situation. He has flawless technique, but that technique doesn’t get in the way of his expression. You can be sure that an album he is on is one worth exploring.

fourth landscape draws you into these musicians’ world of sound and creates a space with its own internal logic. It’s a wonderful combination of composition that allows for freedom, and free playing that sounds composed. It’s a gem, and perhaps the best thing that Nuscope has ever released.

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