Thursday, August 15, 2019

Udo Schindler/Jaap Blonk – Hillside Talks (Relative Pitch, 2019) ****

Relative Pitch’s catalogue has been widely expanding and blossoming lately. Since 2011, when the label began, it has been one of the most important labels in the free jazz and improvised music world. But checking out the batch of the label’s latest releases, I think a shift towards a more experimental and less “jazz” aesthetic is very clear. All in all with an ever expanding roster of amazing musicians and a catalogue full of great albums Relative Pitch is a label to watch out for every new release.

Jaap Blonk is not a newcomer when it comes to adventurous music, or more accurately, sounds. Using his voice and more often lately electronics, after he quit playing the sax, he has never been afraid of experimenting. Exposing himself through his music has been the only constant in a discography full of experimentation, curiosities and a lack of fear for failure. Hillside Talks is his first for this label.

I wasn’t aware of Udo Schindler’s big discography, basically in the field of improvisation. I must blame myself for this, even though the excuse is always there and present. We are all, and me, saturated with information, that there’s no time (sometimes there’s no will also) to figure out what to keep and what to throw away. Hillside Talks is a keeper for sure.

From the beginning of the first track from this live recording, I think two facts are pretty clear. Fact number one, this is an ongoing relationship that builds up as the recording unfolds. The two of them seem in a constant dialogue that consists mainly from the horns of Schindler and the vocal experiments of Blonk. Fact number two is that they seem to follow the same trajectory, while they build their sound. What amazes me is that they seem pretty certain and willing not to conform into thinking of what to do next. They do not allow their selves the luxury of preparing. Even in the basics. I might be wrong here, but isn’t this what a live recording should be like?

In all ten tracks of Hillside Talks we listen to a confirmation of a dialogue. Using various techniques they seem to be in a dialogue. Like in seminal improvisational recordings of the past (for example Face To Face with John Stevens and Trevor Watts), they take up the roles of friend and try to conceptualize it. Hillside Talks is like a long friendly discussion. It might incorporate laughs, anger, love, aggression, irony, improvisation, small talk. Whatever is handy.

An attitude like this comes as an antithesis to the well defined world of “serious” music or “professionalism”. Do not get me wrong, they are really serious and passionate. It’s just that this dialogue contains the element of a game, even a child’s game. Have you ever tried to grab any toy from a child’s hand? This music is that serious in the sense that they do not take themselves seriously. In this capitalist corporate careerist world we live in, we should be desperate for all this.


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