By Sammy Stein
33 jazz records have been putting out beautiful and interesting music for decades now and the 33Xtreme inset allows dissipation of some of the best free jazz in the UK and Europe. Piloted by musician and producer Paul Jolly, it is good to see him featuring on this CD with UK poet Paula Rae Gibson on vocals. Paul Jolly, as well as being a label producer, has been a member of Sweet Slag and is currently a stalwart member of the free jazz combo the People Band. On the CD he plays bass clarinet and soprano saxophone, completely improvised and completely beautiful. Paul told me recently, "There will be a new album from me - a duo with Paula Rae Gibson, which I think you’ll really like (lots of bass clarinet)." Here it is- and he was right: lots of bass clarinet, some soprano sax, and total improvisation. Paula Rae Gibson is an award winning photographer and author with many books published, exhibitions held and magazine features to her name. She has collaborated with many musicians including Tim Pilling, Sophie Alloway and Sam Leak.
The CD's opener, 'Celebrity', is a poem about anger, the search for power and loss. it features beautiful, deep, seductive bass clarinet explorations, which somehow answer the poetry as if in empathy. Paula Rae Gibson's breathy lyrics are clear and profound. 'Speak As You Find' has the lyricist talking poetically over scale ascensions, descensions and then short, gentle motifs uttered by the bass clarinet, eloquently reflecting the lyrics and their sense of just reined-in anger. In parts, the clarinet emerges from being support to filling the gaps in the lyrics with gorgeous, rich solos which wrap the heart and make the gaps warm, comforting and lovely. In the final section the clarinet rises into altissimo and back to the depths, speaking its antagonism to the lyrics with sensuality and power.
'Echo of You' opens with lyrics depicting an unpleasant vision of life before the clarinet enters , staccato then gentler, as if urging a gentler view of things. A breathy staccato section again whilst the lyrics do their work in painting the landscape in tones of slightly depressive mood. 'I might die tonight, leave in the wind, sacred thing, ' is spoken over repeated, deep motifs, then rapid finger rivulets of sound given by the clarinet as if to counter the darkness of the lyrics. The clarity of both lyrics and the changes in the bass clarinet line makes this track listenable and incredibly interesting.
'Past So Tightly' is just under 10 minutes of dialogue and conversation between the clarinet and poet, the lyrics taking the mood down, the clarinet offering uplifting trills, loose-reeded playful interludes and breathy, deep passages which end up adding their own melancholy. Then stut notes under the dark words offer a lighter take on things, followed by a breathy, just heard line which allows the lyrics to be clear. Gradually the clarinet breathes ever increasing interest into the supporting lines and develops its own dialogue, still allowing space for the lyrics but increasing the dynamic content over which the lyrics continue their emotive, slightly dark tones. The final section sees the clarinet line come up, add life and finally lift the track out of the doldrums and there is a wonderful point where voice and clarinet are on the same held note. Oneness.
'Not Going To Save You' sees the lyrics follow their dark path but this time with soprano sax to lift and reflect. The change is welcome and a far lighter mood is created with the soprano echoing the lyrical lines but with added notes and phrasing which gives them even more meaning somehow. A real dialogue is created between the voice and sax, especially when the lyricist says ' I'm not going to save you'. The sax reacts as if stung and pleading. In the final section the sac soars away on its own line whilst the lyrics continue their downward mood. Mesmeric.
'Heart On Ice Breath' begins with repeated ' I' , under which the clarinet echoes the breaths and develops the ' I am not going to save you' message but with added rhythmic pulsations from the breath of the vocals and the pips from the saxophone. Both voice and sax create a rhythmic track with the sax adding lyrical sections of its own in the final section which are lovely and completely transform the track .
'Strings Made of Mean' is higher, lighter , still with the dark side of life reflected admirably in the lyrics but the sax offers a shinier, melodic interludes which make this track different and uplifting, despite the warnings contained in the lyrics about not getting carried away , not trusting and guarding the emotions. The sax line seems to contrast each dark phrase in the lyrics with a little cheery offering. Lovely.
'Eyes with Which You See' begins with soprano sax solo , airy and light, setting the mood a little higher than it has been, traversing the registers with dexterity and continuing regardless of the unsettling lyrics. 'Celebrity- Reprise' closes the album and a return to the bass clarinet for Paul Jolly, under the poetry above which speaks of the search for acknowledgement and power.
Throughout this album the sense of understanding is clear and present. The lyrics follow many dark paths but the bass clarinet and particularly the soprano saxophone offer contrasts at times, empathy at others and hardly ever break into the spaces so the poetical lyrics cannot be heard. This CD is not for the fainthearted if you are looking for sweetness and light but the poetical rhythms set by the words, the alternate sweet and deep voice of Paul Rae Gibson and the beautiful empathetic music delivered by bass clarinet and soprano sax work perfectly to make it listenable and interesting.