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Monday, February 4, 2008

Mark O'Leary & Han Bennink - Television (Ayler Records, 2008) ***

I'm a great fan of Mark O'Leary, but not everything he does is magic. As is this CD, which gives a duo improvization between O'Leary and Dutch master drummer Han Bennink, recorded in 2001. The great thing about the album is the interaction between two free minds, mostly in very nervous staccato conversation, with rapid-fire attacks and reactions between O'Leary's low-toned guitar and Bennink's special drumming, with the exception of one track "For Bernie", which is more traditional in it's down-tempo work-out. The rest of the album is all within the same range of music, rapid, precise and creative, but still far removed from the more adventurous and impactful voice he developed in the last two years. There are no special effects here, just down-to-earth naked guitar and drums. Some (most!) of the tracks are technically awe-inspiring, like "Woodcuts" on which Bennink's drumming is maniacally hard, precise and with a sustained energy that is hard to fathom. That being said, all tracks bring a little too much of the same, with not enough variation, and the sound quality is not superb either, especially for the drums (but that's unfortunately too often the case with Ayler releases). The album gives a great demonstration of O'Leary's skills on the guitar, his real talents as an artist will blossom some years later in his career. Fans of O'Leary and Bennink will appreciate this release by Ayler, for those who don't know him, it may be worthwhile to start with his more recent work.

You can listen and download from Ayler Records (only available as a download).