Aug 24 2013
Tim Collins – “Castles and Hilltops”
Lyricism is an ephemeral quality. While it is very often expressed with a storyteller’s linearity… a statement of melody followed by travels outward, encountering new rhythms and harmonies and improvisations until achieving a final chapter that returns to the melodic home… it can be just as powerful a sensation when the musician’s story isn’t told so much as that it simply happens, an all-encompassing presence like an occurrence of nature, seemingly, from out of nowhere.
The music of vibraphonist Tim Collins is emblematic of this quality. A musician who displays a healthy respect for a strong melody, he often reveals it more as an illusionist eliciting a grand image than a writer typing out the opening lines of a chapter. Melodies fade into view and then gradually fall into obscurity. They are very real and easy to grasp, and the method with which they’re presented is resplendent with pretty magics and tender care.
The pulse of Collins’ 2007 release Valcour could be most easily found in its groove. Though some tracks certainly had a statuesque elegance, the album was most represented by its jaunty cadence. On the other hand, with 2008’s Fade, the addition of a string trio and guitarist Charlie Hunter’s inimitable twang brought a strangely haunting ambiance to relatively chipper music, refracting melodic light into unusual forms and shapes. For Collins’ 2011 release Castles & Hilltops, he captures the spirit of his two previous releases, and blends their preeminent qualities into a singular, new voicing, and provides it with his particular emergent lyricism.
Your album personnel: Tim Collins (vibes), Danny Grissett (piano), Matt Clohesy (bass), and Tommy Crane (drums).
Right from the outset, the quartet establishes the compositional rules of engagement. “TNT” lays down a shifty groove, over which Collins lays fluttering vibe lines, thus creating even more rhythmic variation. And whereas “Pond” is a meditative tune at heart, the dynamic rhythmic pattern maintains a brisk heart rate.
The multifaceted approach via percussion earns more dividends with “Army Brat.” Riding the back of an insinuated groove while simultaneously spinning in place at increasing speeds, the quartet transforms what amounts to a straight-ahead tune into a montage of minor diversions and welcome distractions.
A neat little surprise on Valcour was Collins’ rendition of the Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” Collins covers two songs on his latest release. The first is a rendition of Bjork’s “Anchor Song,” in which the quartet attains some lightness and elevation from the original’s folk song earthiness… Clohesy’s bass and Collins’ vibes flutter about one another with the hypnotic quality of fireflies on a Summer eve. The other rendition is a cover of Tom Petty’s “Into the Great Wide Open.” The quartet stays to the original’s melody, but gives the song a woozy late night presence… an impression less of Tom Petty and something more along of the lines of how Tom Waits might tackle the song. Grissett’s sound on piano screams darkened bar, warm whiskey, and a mix of hopefulness and broken dreams.
“The Tunnel” is arguably the album highlight. Led by Crane’s multi-pronged percussive attack, the quartet charges ahead with a staggered loping cadence that provides an illusory perpetual forward motion while building tension with some brief intervals of quick-witted retreats… not unlike how, at the right speeds, a swiftly spinning wheel can appear to reverse direction. The album ends with a reprise of “The Tunnel,” in which the rhythmic attack is more direct and juxtaposed nicely over Collins’ swirling vibraphone eddies.
A solid album from an outstanding musician.
Released in 2011 on the Nineteen-Eight Records label.
Jazz from the Salzburg, Austria scene.
Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.
Not available at (U.S.) Amazon or eMusic. However, you can purchase the album directly from the label (linked to just above), and the prices of $7 for the download, $10 for the CD are very reasonable.
Some additional notes:
Eventually I’ll be publishing a review of both of Collins’ previous albums, Valcour and Fade, in the coming months. You should also check out other entries for Tim Collins on this site… specifically two different entries in the These Are Videos That I Like series, in which Collins is performing live with his Hellgate Strings ensemble. God help me if I ever see a Kickstarter campaign for Collins to record a full album with the Hellgate Strings ensemble… budget cuts will be made to help fund that thing.
Sep 9 2013
Einar Scheving – “Land Mins Fodur (The Land Of My Father)”
On his 2011 release Land Mins Fodur (The Land Of My Father), drummer Einar Scheving seeks to honor not just his departed father, but all the Icelander’s who came before him in making his home country what it was. It’s a concept of great scope… one fraught with the risk of rambling incohesion and an insubstantial identity. Howver, Scheving deftly overcomes those risks by focusing his vision through a lens of poetry, folkloric imagery, and Icelandic song.
The end result is an album of striking icy beauty and a home fire warmth.
Your album personnel: Einar Scheving (drums), Eyþór Gunnarsson (piano, Fender Rhodes), Óskar Guðjónsson (tenor sax), Skúli Sverrisson (acoustic & electric bass), Guðmundur Pétursson (lap steel guitar, dobro, electric & acoustic guitars), Davíð Þór Jónsson (Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, piano), and guest vocalists: Kristján Kristjánsson, Ragnar Bjarnason, Ragnheiður Gröndal, Sigurður Guðmundsson, Egill Ólafsson, and Sigríður Thorlacius.
The album opens with “Nu Vil Eg Enn I Nafni Thinu,” an Icelandic hymn with an enthralling sway. The refracted notes of Pétursson’s lap steel guitar match perfectly with Guðjónsson’s languid saxophone lines, while Gunnarsson’s skittering piano contribution balances the sleepy ambiance with engaging flairs and asides.
Second track “Land Mins Fodur / Haettu Ad Grata Hringana” continues the use of Icelandic folk songs as the basis for Scheving’s performance. Combining two songs into one composition, the music’s lullaby demeanor is further emboldened with electric guitar shadowing saxophone’s patient expressions of melody.
About half of the album tracks include guest vocalists singing Icelandic poems as accompaniment. A ballad with a grim pragmatism, “Sorgardans” speaks of lost love and sorrow. And on “Afturhvarf,” the despairing words of poet Steinn Steinarr are delivered with a sardonic tone reminiscent of Tom Waits, with piano’s effusive accompaniment the kind of muted cheery blues that just such a song requires.
And though the album never retreats from its general state of serenity, some tracks drive up the heart rate a notch. The rhythmic groundwork set by Scheving and Sverrisson on percussion and bass provide the other musician’s the platform from which to launch “Maistjarnan” into higher elevations. And then there’s the Icelandic rhyme dances of “Dyravisur.” where the combination of Scheving’s rushing-tide brushwork, Sverrisson’s pronounced leaps on bass, and the shuffling steps of Guðjónsson’s saxophone incite the noble elegance of a waltz and the congenial informality of a night amongst friends.
The mix of different variations guitars and keys bring further texture to this subtly detailed recording. Jónsson’s organ on “Draumalandid (Dreamland)” provides a soulful ambiance to Icelandic composer Sigfus Einarsson’s dedication to the Summers of his home country. And on album-closer “Mamma Aetlar Ad Sofna,” Pétursson’s lap steel gives vocalist Sigríður Thorlacius’s airy recitation of Davíð Stefánsson’s poem a shimmering presence, as if sunlight dancing on the surface of an undisturbed lake.
Just a beautiful albums, and one of the best that 2011 had to offer.
Released in 2011, this album is Self-Produced.
Jazz from the Reykjavík, Iceland scene.
Available at eMusic MP3 | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3
Some Additional Notes:
The CD of the album is very nicely presented. Lots of great photos and detailed liner notes. I know the price difference between CD and digital can be substantial at times, but between the quality packaging and the way the music sounds when not compressed in MP3 format might make it worth it for you. I’ll actually be showing more of the CD itself in an upcoming new Bird is the Worm series… For the Love of CDs, in which I obsess over great CD (and LP) packaging, showing plenty of pictures and whatever else floats my boat. Stay tuned.
Also, I previously reviewed Scheving’s 2008 release Cycles. You can read that review HERE. I still listen to that album on occasion, and find it no less enjoyable with the passing of time. Still comes highly recommended by yours truly.
By davesumner • Jazz Recommendations, Jazz Recommendations - 2011 Releases, Recap: Best of 2011 • 0