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Monday, August 17, 2020

Vandermark / Drake / Trovalusci / Ceccarelli - Open Border (Audiographic Records, 2020) ****

Open Border has been with me for many, many months. I've listened to it numerous times, and each time thought "ok, now, I will sit down a write something." However, it wasn't until I plugged in my earbuds and took a walk that it finally happened. 

One way to listen to music is of course to listen closely, intentionally, and with minimal background sound. This is a wonderful and luxurious way to spend time, and there is a rich offering of tones and textures exuding from this recording. European electronics pioneer Luigi Ceccarelli organically works in otherworldly sounds, while American percussionist Hamid Drake has an otherworldly ability to work with organic sounds. European flutist Gianni Trovalusci stitches bright, piercing notes into the unusual rhythm sections sonic fabric, while American reeds player Ken Vandermark, on an array of woodwinds, revels in exploration.

Listen to the huff and puff at three and a half minutes, breathy sounds flutter over a trembling pulse. Vandermark's clarinet builds in intensity, which leads to smears of reedy sound and painterly strokes of flute. Later, around the 11-minute mark, the drums and electronics lay down a prickly nettle bed. Tongue smacks against the mouthpiece yield yet another rhythmic texture, which is picked up by the electronics and carried forward. 

Popping back in at 20 minutes, the field of play is quite dynamic. The flute is sputtering, whooshes of breath emit from the sax, joined by a clatter of the percussion and whispered voice. A lot of the interaction is like this, quiet, intense interlacing of sounds. Not always fully formed notes, but impulses that develop into musical moments.

The flute "solo" at 28 minutes is the closest we get to a recognizable melodic statement, under which Drake lightly taps a supportive beat. Even then, the fringes of Trovalusci's range are decorated by his own re-processed tones. Then, closing in on the end, at the 30 minute mark, a singing/chant comes to the fore, also treated like the flute with its own sounds being re-processed and played back. The closing moments of the recording coalesce into a repetitive hymn like melody that takes on increasing gravity and intensity. Then the solemn passage is brought to a gentle closure. It feels like the end of an unexpected journey, a mix of satisfaction and a little disbelief. 

However, there are other ways to listen to music, and as I mentioned earlier, I had popped in the earbuds to listen and began moving through the city streets. Cars, people, city sounds, surrounded me, adding an atmospheric layer. It was right then, well, right about when had reached the big intersection, that it really clicked. It is not that such a rich assortment of sounds needed anything additional, but somehow the blending of the sounds of life with the exquisit recording, crossed some border of mine, blending perfectly.

If you haven't already picked up this album, consider doing so!