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Monday, October 5, 2009

Herb Robertson & Mark Solborg - (NOD) ( ILK, 2009) *****

 Regular readers of this blog know about the joy I find in trumpet music in small ensembles, and here is another album to enjoy from beginning to end. You will hear Herb Robertson like you've seldom heard him, stretching his notes, creating something like melancholy soundscapes, introspective even. And much of the credit for this great music goes to Danish guitarist Mark Solborg who invited Robertson for this recording as a kind of side project for the quartet they were performing with.

Solborg's guitar playing is minimalist, sober but quite effective, reducing tones and interaction to the bare essence, but creating more substance in a few notes and chords than what many are not able to create by building layers of rapid speed violence. No speed here, no violence either, only calm and careful interaction, subtle and sensitive. Quite a contrast for the guitarist too, whose Mold album of two years ago shows a much harsher rockish side to his playing. The music on this album is fully improvised. The slower melancholy tracks are alternated with more quirky pieces, on which the symbiosis between the two instruments becomes even more immediate and intense, and on which Robertson explores the many possible sounds out of his instrument as we would expect, as on "Komplet Komplot".

The title refers to many different things, from the basic term of "nodding", to "the land of Nod", or even the abbreviation of a Nocturnal Observation Device, and the two artists play around these many meanings, from mutual understanding to the eery lands of the imagination where few have gone to making the invisible (or inaudible) a reality. A wonderful album, that meanders between the late evening blues of Miles Davis' "L'Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud" over Wadada Leo Smith's more contemplative albums such as "Compassion", but then adding the spicy avant-garde inventiveness of these two excellent musicians. Stunningly beautiful. I love it!

But the best review of this album was written by the great Scottish author R.L Stevenson, a poem apparently appreciated by both musicians.

The Land of Nod

From breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do --
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.

Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.

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© stef