When Peter Evans released his first solo trumpet record, "More Is More", in 2005, it got high praise and lots of appreciation. In contrast, I was not captivated by the album. Like so many solo albums, it was a long demonstration of technical inventions and skills, but then you wonder, so what? I can also try to become proficient at getting a multitude of sounds out of a wheelbarrow or the leg of a chair, but so what if I could? Skills and inventiveness are necessary for good music, but not sufficient. They're only a tiny but essential part of it.
With "Nature/Culture", my impression is totally different. And I think this double album really is in a different league. It has much more intensity, there is continuity in the pieces, their is a sense of dynamic evolution, tension and emotional expressiveness. True, my taste could have changed over the years, and it certainly did, but then I put on "More Is More" again, and it confirmed my opinion. His first solo album was a daring adventure of instrumental skills, his second a more mature and gripping album of musical skills in a very limited setting.
The pure physicality of a musician struggling with his instrument to get more out of it, to transform feelings into sounds, to subdue, to coax, to seduce, to wring out, to motivate the instrument to come with more colors, more depth, more power, more softness, ... to force even more complex phrases out of it, it is all here. You hear the fight and the joy, the tension between concentration and the release, between intellectual will and physical constraints, you can almost see it, or even more, as a listener you (I) get so sucked into his universe that you empathetically and unconsciously work along with your own lungs, diaphragm, abdominal muscles, lips and cheeks, squeezing out the notes, the tones, the sounds, till you're exhausted yourself as a listener in an endeavour to help the musician get these sounds out, wondering how he does it, how the breathing works, where the air keeps coming from, where all these various tones come from, where the energy comes from, where the ideas keep coming from. But then you give up trying, even asking questions, and you just undergo the whole thing, giving up thinking, because the musician's unrelenting power is too strong, and Evans really pushes it to the extreme, and then, still in physical empathy, you become part of the music itself, emotionally, spiritually.
And maybe that's the reason why I find solo albums so appealing, because the distance between performer and listener is much smaller and in the hand of a true musician, the distance has the potential to totally disappear. Identifying with a big band is a challenge, because it will always be a remote and distant animal, but identifying with the music made by one individual person, in all intimacy, vulnerability, struggle and openness is much easier. And that's weird in this case, because the music itself is not accessible at all. Yet it works. And that's possibly the greatest talent any musician can have: to deeply connect with the listener. A rare thing in avant-garde.
Listen to an excerpt from "Jazz".
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