Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cool Quartet with Lina Nyberg, featuring Eric La Casa - Dancing in Tomalilla (hibari)

There are odd recordings, then there are odd recordings. This is one of the latter. So you have the "Cool Quartet" (sitting here, I'm unsure how tongue in cheek the music is but assume that at least the name is a joke; I hope so) which seems to have been in existence for at least seven years, with Axel Dorner, Zoran Terzic (piano), Jan Roder (bass) and Sven-Ake Johansson, augmented by singer Lina Nyberg, They apparently concentrate on jazz standards, how straightforwardly I'm not sure but perhaps we can analogize to Otomo's ONJQ. For this disc, however, the five musicians are simply a sound source, the major one to be sure, for Eric La Casa's manipulations. These appear to include both the initial recordings (done in Sweden in 2008) which I get the sense were done like many ambient field recordings, that is to say, with the mic in motion and, here, not always so close to the music, as well as subsequent and substantial editing and recomposition a couple years later.

Given the principal source, to my ears a rather desultory and not terribly interesting jazz band, it's hard not to get the sense that the whole project was done with something of a sneer on La Casa's face. Something on the order of, "Let's deconstruct this archaic, schmaltzy music, slice and dice it into something new." Well, that's one problem. Specifics aside, it's not so new. And then the question, "Why bother?" Had the music really been considered as one element out of many, who knows? But it's thrust up front, shards from different performances glued together, intruded upon by other sounds, presumably transfigured ones from the environment. So, in the first three tracks, you have "Tea for Two" abutting with warming-up music, patter, billowy sounds, "I only Have Eyes for You", Dorner's trumpet going a bit outside, the mic sometimes right with the group, sometimes a couple of rooms away, etc. Listened to purely sonically, there's an amount of cohesion but it's hard for this listener to abstract himself so much--the music just stands out and it's not great music. Sometimes I think there's a double layer of archness: one on the group level, one on La Casa's, as well as a feeling of one-trick-pony-ness.

The last final tracks are straight ahead standards only tinted by club audience ambiance, chatter and applause. Were I in the audience, I might have been chattering as well. The difference between the group and a hotel lobby ensemble isn't all that great. Ah, I'm being unnecessarily mean, perhaps; the band is competent, just bland. My mom would like them. This set of songs sits in clear opposition to the first suite. It's almost as though La Casa presented a largely post-production-enhanced field recording then included several tracks to illustrate the source in its natural habitat. All well and good, though it's tough to suppress one's knowledge about discussions on the viability of jazz or lack thereof that we've all engaged in over the past couple of decades (at least), hence the tint of winking knowingness that gnaws at me.


available from erstdist


Anonymous said...

A rather mawkish review quite entirely "missing the point."

Brian Olewnick said...

thanks, anonymous. No doubt I miss the point reasonably often. Would love to hear from you what the point *is*, since apparently you get it.

Please prove you're not a robot said...

Why are you reviewing conceptual music from a literal standpoint? This whole review emanates of misunderstanding of theoretical practice.. "Winking knowingness?" More-so indubitable innocuousness

Brian Olewnick said...

The "conception" (such as I'm hearing iot--perhaps there's more to it--is nothing that many of us haven't done routinely for years in live situations, that is, move around, hear things from different points, go outside the venue, barely hearing the music, concentrating on he ambient sounds instead of the purported subject, etc. It's nothing new. If that's all there is to it, I just shrug my shoudlers and say, "So what?" It's nothing, imho, particularly interesting in a recording as opposed to doing it oneself (a problem I have with many, not all, recordings of Manfred Werder's compositions) where, in my experience, it can be quite fascinating, more so with music I otherwise would perfectly well enjoy sitting in front of it in a traditional manner. . It's so *obviouslY* conceptual, that one looks for other reasons for being. Why, for instance, append the five straight (more or less) recordings? Why not do this exercise with music that more of the audience (for field or ambient recordings) might otherwise think would stand perfectly well on it's own, like a Rowe/Tilbury show. *That* might be a little provocative.

Brian Olewnick said...

I should mention that I enjoyed La Casa's Wind and Water release very much and have liked other work as well. It's just this one that doesn't do much for me.