Jan 23 2020
In a way, it would be inaccurate to view Ben Goldberg‘s explorations of poetry merely as some sort of phase in the clarinetist’s creative evolution. Goldberg’s music has always been characterized by its poetic spirit, a quality revealed in the delivery as much as the lyricism. Goldberg is certainly as capable of lighting things up as the next soloist, but when he’s approaching a piece with an economy of sound is when he’s at his strongest. These are the moments when his choice of inflections and emphases fill the music with a presence, a spirit, that has both the weight of deeply considered thought and the boundless freedom to take flight and soar high above.
That being said, those projects that actually incorporate poetry into the fabric of the recording contain a certain delight that should not be dismissed as a mere extension of his natural sound. Goldberg’s excellent 2015 release Orphic Machine was an ode to the poetry of Allen Grossman, utilizing his words as both foundation and frame. On Goldberg’s latest foray into spoken word, Goldberg’s trio with trumpeter Ron Miles and guitarist Nels Cline recorded a new piece based on a poem by Dean Young. Then, present in the recording studio, the poet was asked to write an entirely new poem from what he had just heard, which led to a new piece from the musicians, and thus continued a closed loop of creative spontaneity and inspiration, circling endlessly back upon itself. From a conceptual standpoint, this is pretty damn cool, both as a mainline of improvisational technique and by way of its multi-medium crossover perspective. And viewed in the context of the music alone, it’s a testament to Goldberg’s innate poetic spirit and how it manifests in yet more wonderful music.
Your album personnel: Ben Goldberg (Bb clarinet, contra-alto clarinet), Nels Cline (electric guitar), Ron Miles (trumpet), and Dean Young (typewriter).
Released on Pyroclastic Records.
Music from Berkeley, California.
I wrote about this album for The Bandcamp Daily.
Cool album cover artwork by Spottswood Erving (which may be an alias for David Breskin).