Aug 28 2016
The curious thing about the newest recording from pianist Rob Clearfield is that Islands plays out as something of a fluid construction, where one image leads logically into the next, and each lends itself to the embrace of the Bigger Picture. But what makes Islands so compelling is the abiding sense that these shapes taking form aren’t altogether planned, that their ultimate manifestation is one not aligned with the trio’s original intentions, and it’s through their attempts to regain control of the imagery that tension is distilled into the final product. They accomplish this through the melody.
In that way “With or Without” attains a momentum that gradually rages out of control, and each time the trio reins it in by turning the melody into a construct of dissonance, stopping the momentum in its tracks and allowing the trio to get the melody back into a dreamstate of pure beauty… until the cycle begins all over again, with each iteration generating an ever-increasing intensity.
And then there’s the track “Ralph Towner” in which the gorgeous melody seems to envelop itself, as if a rainstorm were overtaken by another rainstorm, one eclipsing the other even as their mutual bond of melodic texture enhances the qualities of each and both. “Narcissa” takes that approach, but it’s shards of glass coming down instead of raindrops. But then it swings back in the other direction on “Child, Awake,” in which an even-handed approach to overdubbing of guitar and organ adds even more lovely textures to an intoxicating melody.
But things get even more intriguing when tracks begin to repeat patterns from earlier tracks, combining overlapping approaches and expressions into newer, more complex imagery. “The Forest” echoes the sounds of “With or Without” and “Narcissa,” while “The Antidote” is cast upon the ripples of “Ralph Towner” and “Child, Awake,” and the album finale “Where the Tape’s At/Islands (reprise)” seems to borrow from all of the above.
I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
Your album personnel: Rob Clearfield (piano, electric piano, organ, guitar), Curt Bley (acoustic & electric basses) and Quin Kirchner (drums).
Released on Ears & Eyes Records.
Listen to more album tracks at the artist’s Bandcamp page.
Jazz from the Chicago scene.