Matters of Art

The recordings from CIMP, the Creative Improvised Music Project, are outstanding for their lack of artifice—no compression, no processing—clean, straight, two microphone stereo recordings that capture the musicians’ performance as they played it. No fixes, no overdubbing, no splicing or reverb, just pure, real music played by pure, real musicians, just the way you’d hear it if you were sitting there. They prove simplicity is elegant. They prove listening to full dynamic range recordings give us the chance to experience being there as closely as is possible through the recording process. When played back at realistic levels the feeling, the impact, the grit of reality is all right here, right now. This approach has become extraordinarily rare. Recording professionals can make all the excuses they want for not holding to these high standards, but not one holds water. That’s why CIMP recordings get an A+ rating from me. You could argue, they aren’t that great, but pure recordings such as these are so rare, so few and far between, they deserve bonus points and special recognition. Capturing all the musicians have to give matters.

That’s not all that’s unusual. The musicians they record are not your run of the mill, gold record, radio played, everyone-knows-their-name, on the charts, in the news, on the tube artists. These are people you’ve probably never heard. These are the new and fresh, even if they’ve been around for decades. New because they’ve been overshadowed by the same ‘o, same ‘o that the media can’t leave alone. The media don’t have the cojones to feature who they think is good. They lack the confidence in themselves to make free choices. It’s the same with all the arts. Most people rely on the judgment of some other supposed authority to recognize the good, especially if it’s a little different. They need to be told what they should value. Why else would a Van Gogh sell for millions when there are equally talented people creating equally great art right here, right now? Great art is not what the intelligentsia say it is, rather, it’s what you understand and appreciate. It’s what gives you an endorphin rush. No one else’s opinion matters in matters of art.

That brings me to Rosi Hertlein’s funky album titled Two Letters I’ll Keep. It’s not funky in the R&B sense, but funky in a geez this is weird way. The funk starts with the instrumentation, two violins, reeds, french horn, trombone, and percussion. That weirdness perked my interest. It’s not your usual jazz ensemble. It’s not your usual jazz. Although there are jazz elements, other than improvisation, spattered about here and there. The music goes off on many tangents, wildly free of structure. It makes most free-jazz seem constrained and rigidly premeditated. I struggled through a couple of cuts hoping something would grab me. I forced myself to remain conscious. No matter, half way through I gave up. It’s too slippery for me.

On the other hand, Santuary, by the Bobby Few & Avram Fefer Quartet (or 4tet as it’s called on the back cover) has, for me, the right blend of structure and freedom. They frequently set up an ostinato as a framework for building their impromptu tangents. Instead of aimless meandering, they take flight from a trapeze, a reference point for their flips and turns to spring from and return to. The ebb and flow continues throughout the CD. It invites me back to hear more, and to discover little bits I missed the first time, and the second, and the third.


Club Foot

FewTop notch musicians are everywhere. I learned long ago that talent is not rare. This CD is one example, and a good reason to resist the automatic knee-jerk response to buy the familiar. Put these guys in a more prestigious setting, on a more renowned label, with more lavish promotion, and they’d shine as bright as any of the jazz giants. Finding the talent sitting right next to you takes a little effort, and yes, it means taking some chances. It means sometimes you get a dud. It means sometimes you find a gem. Venturing out and going off trail have risks. The only way to find those hidden artists who blaze the trail for the big names to follow is to take the risk. The safe route won’t reveal what matters. 

(||) Rating — Music : B ║ Performance : A ║ Recording : A+ ║
 Bobby Few & Avram Fefer Quartet, Sanctuary, CIMP, 2005

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