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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jim McAuley - The Ultimate Frog (Drip Audio, 2008) ****

American acoustic guitarist Jim McAuley made this highly enjoyable double CD of duets with the late Leroy Jenkins on violin, Nels Cline on guitar, Alex Cline on drums, and Ken Filiano on bass. McAuley's musical starting point is not really jazz, but rather folk with classical elements, and then of the instrumental avant-garde and improvised kind, a unique universe if you want. The music is intimate and adventurous. All the tracks offer different capsules of exploration, in which the two musicians stay quite focused around the center of the newly discovered sound environment. There are no wide digressions or expansive moments, it's as if the musicians play with a strange kind of wonder for the small and unexpected. It all sound very fresh and subtle.

The album title refers to a short story of a man looking for four frogs to form a choir, each being able to produce a different pitch. He unfortunately dies in the act of capturing the last frog, the one with the perfect middle C, leading to the moral that "the good is the enemy of the perfect". Perfection is not sought here, but rather authenticity.

The pieces were recorded at four different dates, and the fact that they are quite evenly distributed over the two CDs offers a welcome and interesting variation of approaches.

Listen and download from eMusic.

Listen to
Improvisation #12
Improvisation #5

© stef