This is not at all a “blowing” record. “Prehensile Dream,” in fact, features hardly any soloing at all. The mesmerizing melody is simply repeated, with increasing urgency, until the same haunting guitar arpeggios that began the tune return to end it. Similarly, “Reclusive” and “Melismatic Clouds of Joy” build melodies into ecstatic yet mournful cries, harnessing the power of the full ensemble to drive the point home. One would probably need to go back to an album like Nefertiti to hear this kind of mantra-like emphasis on melody in a modern jazz ensemble. As horn stylists go, D’Angelo and McHenry couldn’t be more different, and Anderson takes advantage of this in many ways during the course of the album.
On “The Owl,” for instance, D’Angelos solo is almost entirely “out,” his playful screeches contrasting with McHenry’s careful, yet energetic, dissection of the quickly moving changes. At other times the two-horn interplay is as subtle as that heard on “Foxy,” where D’Angelo plays the slow, singable melody before McHenry takes it over, continuing it underneath D’Angelos solo. Ben Monder is also a tremendously important part of the bands sound, comping clean, mellow chords and contributing fine solos on several cuts. His fuzztone workout toward the end of “The Captain” is a highlight. Marlon Browden’s loose yet cohesive time feel suits the music perfectly, and his quasi-rubato free-for-all during the finale, “Silence Is the Question,” give the piece most of its dynamic shape.
“Why ever change the subject?” Francis Bacon asked. “You could go for the whole of your life painting the same subject.” So he did: dominating postwar figurative painting with enthralling virtuosity and infinite variety. Almost all his compositions feature a figure, recognisable but blurred, distorted, convulsed, within an airless, confined space. Rigorously, there is no narrative.
“His aggressiveness is informed by a personal library that once contained 7,000 books. “I’ll bet I read about 90 percent of them,” he said. “I wouldn’t claim I read all of them, but by and large, yeah. I don’t get a book unless I’m going to read it.”
And underline it, as he did with his copy of “The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius,” the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher. “I would carry copies of this in my rucksack when I was overseas,” he explained.
From “Meditations of Marcus Aurelius”:
“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.”
– Interview with General James Mattis
Financial Times, September 2019.
Travel is useful. It exercises the imagination. The rest is fatigue. Our journey is entirely imaginary. People, animals, cities, things — all are imagined. It’s a novel; a fictitious narrative. Anyone can do it. You just have to close your eyes.
– Louis-Ferdinand Celine