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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Soren Kjaergaard / Ben Street / Andrew Cyrille - Femklang (Ilk, 2011) *****

By Stanley Zappa

It's not so much the excellence as it is the perfection of Femklang that is immediately evident. It is a perfection that lasts the length of the recording without interruption—a perfection that underscores the centrality of Soren Kjaergaard, Ben Street and Andrew Cyrille within a very elite cohort of true artists working within this area music.

That Femklang evaded the critical eye of (most) everyone at frejazz-stef as well as the rest of the greater blog roll only underscores this truth. Femklang gives credence to the inverse of the truism that states “if everyone digs what you're doing, you're probably not doing anything worth doing in the first place.” Femklang's evasion of commodity jazz' in-house for hire pom pom waving flunkies is to its credit—a “tell” which we the conscious should be aware.

Like Louis Moholo Moholo on Ancestors, Cyrille has reached a place with the drums where he need not resort to hysterics nor pyrotechnics to make his point. His delicacy on the instrument is not ponderous sloth, but the careful measurements of someone who has done all there is do in the percussion world. With nothing left to prove to the beats-per-minute counters, Cyrille provides just as much melodic and harmonic information as Kjaergaard's piano. He is one of the greatest the medium has ever heard, and he is with us NOW. Very lucky us.

Even though the last thing we need is yet another insight into the market's inability to tell the difference between genius and chocolate pudding, we got one. Despite all the warm feelings we're told to feel about the parent culture's “mainstream-internationalist” posture, Kjaergaard isn't an international household name--yet another portrait of the market's abject aesthetic poverty. Like Cyrille, Kjaergaard sets himself above the rabble through subtlety of gesture and innuendo. Kjaergaard plays tonally when called for, and eschews tonality when it is an impediment. He communicates his command both languages with brevity and grace.

Through out Femklang, bassist Ben Street is given ample opportunity to make an ass of himself—a gambit he never takes. Where so many bassists would have seized the opportunity to parlay Femklang's many meditative stretches into a sonic bouncy-castle for the dexterous celebration of self, Street instead consistently chooses the path of musical integrity and sensibility.

Because we at Freejazz-stef do not have the ability to grant a rating of **** 15/16th I err on the side of sensible with a rating of 5 stars. Were I able to deduct 1/15 of a star I would, for the simple reason Femklang is simply not long enough. While the usual fair haired trough habitues continue to “cry wolf” in an endless parade of agonizingly indulgent multi-CD box set retrospectives (and in so doing, depreciate the credibility and value of our beloved music) Femklang restores faith in the idiom in only 46 minutes. Talk about whipping out just enough to win.

Hopefully they will record again.


Anonymous said...

Just listened on Spotify. Yes it's impressive

joesh said...

Great Stanley, looks like a great listen I'm certainly curious.

For all those interested you can have listen via Soren Kjaergaard's Soundcloud page. You also get a chance to hear some of the other stuff he's busy with.

joesh said...

Here's the Soundcloud link for all interested: