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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Jozef Dumoulin - A Fender Rhodes Solo (Bee Jazz, 2014) ****

By Stef

Jozef Dumoulin was once asked why he used so many electronic devices for his Fender Rhodes piano to alter the sound. His response was that he didn't like the sound of the Fender Rhodes. Or so the story goes.

One of Dumoulin's initial and self-imposed constraints have been fourfold: not to play any other instrument but the Fender Rhodes, to record nothing but improvisations, to isolate only pieces of a normal length inside these improvisations and never to use overdubs. As far as effects go, everything is allowed.

With this album he releases the first ever Fender Rhodes solo album, and the result is as surprising as it is fascinating. Surprising because the instrument's typical sound is completely altered by the attached electronics into a sound that is quietly evolving, often sustained in long notes against which minor colorings are added and slight additions are made. Fascinating, because the music is hard to qualify.

At a first and superficial listen, the sound may come across as somewhat new-agey, because the music is by itself inobtrusive, slow-paced even, but when you listen closer, the music appears to be full of moments of pain, darkness, agony and tension, while around these injections of harshness the beautiful musical caleidoscope changes and shifts in different colors and hues. And despite all the variation and differences in character between the improvisations - eg. chime-like sounds on "Inner White", a jazzy solo "Entry Point", noise on "Try Four", guitar-like feedback on "The Red Hill Medicine", organ-like prog rock on "Safety Orange" - the overall sound is amazingly coherent.

Real jazz fans should stay away from this, and real free improv fans too maybe, and our electroacoustic afficionados will have plenty of comments, as will the minimalist devotees and avant jazz acolytes, and nu jazz adepts too, and the postjazz enthusiasts - but then again, everybody, why don't you give this a try, because it is so much out of scope for what you've heard before, that it really is highly recommended.


joesh said...

Nice review Stef.

For anyone interested there are two sound clips from the record on Josef's website:

Alternatively he also as a Soundcloud page where you can find not only this but some of his other work.