Best of 2016 #25: Rob Clearfield – “Islands” (Ears & Eyes Records)


Islands is all about the imagery.  The first image a song presents is never the last, and the transformations that occur over the duration of one song, and over the length of the recording, is never the same picture and it never takes the same path twice.  But it always begins with the melody.  Pianist Rob Clearfield is just as deft shaping a crisp melody as he is building up to a composite from individual facets, and on this trio session, both methods lead to a myriad of results.  The winding trail of “With and Without” is fraught with cutbacks and sudden detours, while at the other end of that spectrum, “Ralph Towner” dives into the details of a melodic fragment and doesn’t come up for air until the final vision is complete.  Even the tunefulness and warmth of the title-track is deceptively simple, which becomes increasingly apparent with each melodic turn of phrase.  The formation of patterns here and there help provide a sense of album, but this recording eschews cohesiveness for a massively immersive experience, one that occurs moment to moment… which is exactly how the album should be enjoyed.

Jazz from Chicago.

Read more about the album on Bird is the Worm (LINK).