Barre Phillips: Three Day Moon (ECM 1123)

 

Barre Phillips
Three Day Moon

Barre Phillips bass
Terje Rypdal guitar, guitar synthesizer, organ
Dieter Feichtner synthesizer
Trilok Gurtu tabla, percussion
Recorded March 1978 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

I have said it before and I will say it again: Barre Phillips is one of ECM’s most underrecognized treasures. A maverick of the upright bass, his is a mind in which one revels getting lost. This follow-up to 1976’s Mountainscapes is the genesis to the latter’s messiah. From Dieter Feichtner’s opening synth in “A-i-a” and its attendant bass line, we are immediately engaged in a dialogue that is untranslatable except via the grace of its performance. Electric guitar accents from Terje Rypdal, who feels right at home here, billow backwards from the stratosphere into fissures of sonic earth. Rypdal swaps axe for organ in “Ms. P.,” unfurling a shimmering heat in which the breath of bass turns to steam. Even spacier touches await us in “La Folle” and “Ingulz-Buz.” Farther-reaching abstractions mesh into the neutral colors of electric guitar and bowed bass, respectively, throughout these intertidal interludes. “Brd” puts me in mind of Paul Schütze’s Stateless (especially the track “Cool Engines”): strung by a steady bass line and tabla, the latter courtesy of Trilok Gurtu, and Rypdal’s continued ploys, each bead reveals new insights with every listen. If Rypdal has been a key figure in the album’s narrative thus far, for the final “S. C. & W.” he morphs into a demigod. Backed by an insectile arpeggiator, alongside bombilations from bass, Rypdal gets tricky with the effects, at times lapsing into R2-D2-like articulations, but always with integrity. An emblematic closer.

Grandiose, cinematic, and meticulously constructed, Three Day Moon once more proves Phillips to be one of jazz’s best-kept secrets. The album also sports one of the most evocative ECM sleeves of the seventies, with sonic innards to match.

3 thoughts on “Barre Phillips: Three Day Moon (ECM 1123)

  1. Bravo on this review…and bravo on this release by the enigmatic, weird and wonderful Mr. Phillips! This is truly a gem amongst the titanic ECM output (alongside Mountainscapes, Journal Violone II – and the truly bizarre, even scary, Music By…!). Even more unusually, it is amongst the very first ECMs of my experience, thanks to my grad school room mate Mark.

    Well done on this review, Tyran. You nailed it!

  2. Thanks! The best review I’ve read of this gem. I loved it when I found it 1978, and it still sounds good to me today. Very well done! The constantly shifting tempo in SC&W (I’m guessing Space, Country and Western) is one of the most quirky things I’ve heard, yet it’s pulled offed beautifully thanks to the sound playing of the ensemble. Wonderful!

  3. I bought this in about 1981, solely on the Rypdal connection (as a fellow guitarist, I have followed his career since about 1976). Yes, Art, ‘SC&W’ does stand for Space, Country and Western (I read it somewhere – I think in the CD liner notes when I upgraded from vinyl). To me, this is the stand-out track, showcasing great performances from each member of the ensemble. Feichtner’s synth warble evokes small birds at play, while the leader’s bass strings must surely have left him with sore fingers by the conclusion of the piece. Rypdal’s guitar scrapes the stratosphere, while Gurtu’s busy percussion propels the entire thing along at breakneck pace. I often use this piece in music class as an example of how the combination of culturally diverse (American, Austrian, Indian and Norwegian) musical approaches can result in great music.

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