Lande/Samuels/McCandless: Skylight (ECM 1208)

 

Skylight

Paul McCandless soprano saxophone, English horn, oboe, bass clarinet, wood flute
Art Lande piano, percussion
David Samuels vibraharp, marimba, percussion
Recorded May, 1981 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

As one of the finest mallet players of his generation, Dave Samuels has treaded a wide and multifarious path. From Double Image (his gorgeous project with David Friedman) to the exciting territories of his work with the Caribbean Jazz Project (some of the best Latin jazz around), not to mention his fruitful years with Spyro Gyra, Samuels brings a signature delicacy to his playing that is comforting and domestic. His first two intersections with ECM, Dawn and Gallery, are both sadly out of print but make a flowing trilogy of sorts with 1981’s Skylight, which thankfully is still available and marks his last appearance on the label. Joined by one-and-onlys Art Lande and Paul McCandless, Samuels shows us his compositional brilliance in the airy title cut. Not to be outdone, Lande and McCandless offer two tunes apiece. Lande’s territories are more contradictory in their energies, at once twilit and dripping with morning dew, and undeniably engaging. The reed work of McCandless is awesome in its quiet power, particularly in his “Willow,” which closes the album in unified pleasure. Two improvisations round out this overlooked effort. The loamy tales of a bass clarinet thread every monochromatic turn of “Duck In A Colourful Blanket (For Here),” while the interludinal “Ente (To Go)” stands as one of the most effective pieces to employ a thumb piano I’ve heard in a long time.

While the album’s title may refer to an architectural feature, here one encounters its meteorological meaning (“the diffuse light from the sky, scattered by air molecules, as distinguished from the direct radiation from the sun”) in full. With a blend of joy and sorrow that is imaginative but never gaudy, this singular trio session shows us that, even in a darkening day there is music to be discovered.

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