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Friday, March 18, 2011

Noel Taylor & Alberto Popolla - All Fall Down (Citystream, 2010) ****

By Joe Higham

This 14 track CD is possibly one of the most delightful wind duos I've heard for a long time, and it's easy listening! By using the words easy listening I'm certainly not trying to evoke the image of James Last or Bert Kaempfert, here we have music that whilst pushing at barriers is quite unpretentious, even the length of the tunes is very modest, with the majority of the pieces having an average of 2 to 3 minutes. Yet that makes the music even more enjoyable, and of course you hear that the musicians enjoyed playing together.

It seems that Alberto and Noel met via MySpace and started to work together, I assume this is the first fruit of that meeting, if so it's real success as the music on the album is enchanting. The duets are (I imagine) improvised and much of the music has an almost pastoral quality. Yet there are moments of strong energy and dissonance, and due to the quality of the recording you get a spacial sound, giving the impression that the two clarinettists are in the same room as you. With titles such as 'Damselfly', 'Cats Tango' or 'A-Tishoo! A-Tishoo!', one can understand that much of the music has impressionistic qualities, and what also makes the music most listenable is the clear interest that the two clarinettists have in finding and developing melody. In fact it's this ingredient that makes this album such a success and will give the listener endless fun in discovering and re-discovering each tracks details, a little like returning to an art gallery to view a painting more than once.

Although this disc doesn't invent new territory it's excellent example of user friendly improvisation which at moments reminds me of some contemporary classical music. Of course it will be interesting to see what Noel Taylor and Alberto Popolla do next in this format, and one hopes that they'll continue what looks and sounds like an extremely fruitful partnership. Tags for this excellent disc could be - The Clarinets, and ........ umm, err, any suggestions for any (all) clarinet groups welcome!

(Noel Taylor - alto & soprano clarinet, Alberto Popolla - soprano & bass clarinet)