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Album Review

Apart from the ridiculous liner notes by Peter Monoghan that stretch the mountain climbing metaphor of the title beyond the breaking point, this trio date by master pianist John Wolf Brennan, guitarist Christy Doran, and French percussionist Patrice Héral is a small wonder. Recorded in a single day, these 13 improvisations are full of light, quick-footed ideation and intricate listening. Given that most of these half pieces fall under the five-minute mark, there is a breeziness in the proceedings here that adds the dimension of nuance to the sound of this recording. If one reads the liner notes, it will seem that the entire session was constructed under this heavy self-conscious weight of precision, but that isn't what comes across to the listener. If anything, the intuitive and purposeful interplay between the principals is one of fleet language, open spaces, and a regard for dynamic restraint and short phrases. Even on the longer pieces, such as "A Day in the Life of a Siren (who mistook her husband for an umbrella)," there is a playfulness that belies the glossary of terms at the end of the linter notes to explain the titles of the pieces. Héral uses his voice almost as often as his hands in offering guttural texture and ambience to the textures put forward by the stringed instruments. Doran proves himself once more to be, yet again, one of the most inventive and focused guitarists on the scene, and Brennan is his wonderfully pretentious self. Propelling knotty percussive lines top and bottom in the mix serve not so much as lanes of communication, but parameters for it. The final track, "Opéra Perdu," is dedicated to the memory of Russian improviser Sergey Kuryokhin, and invokes his "Subway Culture" piece from 1995. This was supposedly done accidentally, but a big deal is made of it being a kind of spiritual connection to the dead artist. Either way, it works; the wonderful layering of pianism and strings with striated percussive elements and sonics creates the feeling not only of motion, but of an opening of a field of tonal language where dissonance and assonance cease to matter, and what does is ephemeral and fleeting. This is a beautiful date, and one that makes for repeated listening.


Born: 1954

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Pianist and composer John Wolf Brennan was born in Dublin, Ireland, and has been widely acclaimed as an outstanding musician. His distinctive style, marked by a deep interest in contemporary archeology, a personal quest for adventurous avant-garde, an ongoing research of his Celtic roots, and his "Swiss watchmaker exactness," sets him apart from other free jazz and avant-garde musicians of his generation. His compositions feature music rich in atonal textures, and cover a wide spectrum of musical...
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Triangulation, John Wolf Brennan
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