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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Nobu Stowe - An Die Musik (Soul Note, 2008) ****

Baltimore-based Japanese pianist Nobu Stowe is a man of many voices. His lyricism combined with a sense of adventure that were so apparent on his highly recommended previous albums, make way here for an ode to music, and more specifically an ode to Keith Jarrett. Like Jarrett, Stowe sits down at the piano and starts improvising, creating instant melodies and rhythms, often mid-tempo hypnotic pieces, with a musical intensity that comes and goes, like waves, often open-ended, but always integrated. The album's title, "An Die Musik", refers to one of Schubert's "lieder", for solo voice and piano, dating from 1817 in which he sings his love for music. Here the pianist is accompanied by Alan Munshower on drums and Badal Roy on tabla in for duo and trio settings. Badal Roy has one solo tabla piece. Both percussionists keep the tension high and participate in creating the necessary contrast and perspective to Stowe's improvising. On some tracks, as on "Trio II", Badal Roy plays even a very dominant role in setting the scene. Some of the tracks, such as "Duo IV" and the long "Trio III" create melodies that would have many listeners confusing Stowe with Jarrett at first hearing. That means a lot of impressionistic romanticism, and a search for aesthetic beauty. This is surely not the first tribute to the music of Jarrett, but it's certainly one of the better ones. On the other hand, I do prefer Stowe in a more adventurous environment. He has more creative qualities than imitating the master. That being said, it is a beautiful album of an accessibility that is rare on this blog, but so what? I also was to a great extent sucked into the world of jazz by listening to Jarrett, and I share with Nobu Stowe the love for cats : they're independent, unpredictable, elegant and a little mysterious animals, qualities that I admire in good music. The last track on the album is dedicated to his own cat "Pochi". For sure, Stowe's music is unpredictable too, and pretty independent.

© stef