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Monday, June 17, 2024

Taylor Ho Bynum & Jacqueline Kerrod - Simple Ways Such Self (Orenda, 2024)

By Stef Gijssels

Harpists are hard to find in jazz, yet in free improvisation they can find their place, and we have reviewed several of them over the years, with better known musicians such as Zeena Parkins, Rhodri Davies, Ernesto Rodrigues, Thanos Chrysakis or lesser known - at least to me - such as Brandee Younger, Carol Emanuel, Charles Overton, Rafaelle Rinaudo, Lucia Stavros, Delphine Latil, Angélica V. Salvi, Áine O’Dwyer, Alison Bjorkedal, Stina Hellberg Agback, Marilu Donovan, June Han, Noah Horne, Clare Cooper, Kara Bershad, Anne Lebanon, Elisa Thorn, Saara Rautio, Tineke Steenbrink, Giovanna Pessi, Jess Garland, Sissel Walstad. It's still an impressive list, more than I anticipated when I started browsing through the reviews. 

We know Jacqueline Kerrod from her collaboration with Anthony Braxton, a musician with whom cornettist Taylor Ho Bynum also substantially collaborated, and both musicians met in the context of their membership of Braxton's ZIM Music Ensemble and ZIM Sextet. 

They decided to give a live performance together in March of last year, each having penned one track, while leaving the other pieces open to free improvisation. It resulted in this unusual and definitely exceptional album. The harp by itself invites for more intimate, quiet music, which is mostly the case on this album, but Kerrod is inventive and creative enough to expand the expected limits of her instrument. Classically trained in her native South Africa, she is equally versatile in modern music as she is in improvised contexts. 

Even if both instruments have totally different musical roots and are rarely heard together, their sound here is wonderfully coherent and a perfect match in the hands of two musicians who fully master their instruments and their art. The music is mostly gentle, sometimes meditative, yet always full of character and with sharp fangs at times. It's hard to pigeon-hole the music stylistically, if that is even needed, and that's possibly also part of its charm. The open dialogue, the intensity of their listening, the precision of their interaction, the freedom of the sound, combined with the quality of the playing make this an easy to recommend album. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp