John Clark: Faces (ECM 1176)

John Clark
Faces

John Clark french horn
David Friedman vibraharp, marimba
David Darling cello
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded April 1980 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Faces documents the only appearance of versatile French hornist John Clark on ECM proper (he does, however, appear on a trio of WATT releases) and is one from a modest overall output as leader. Having performed with musicians as diverse as Paul Winter, LL Cool J, and Gil Evans, his tender considerations fit snugly with the Eicherian touch in this out-of-print session. Joined by David Friedman’s mallets, the particularly welcome presence of David Darling’s electric cello, and Jon Christensen on drums, Clark paints for us a rain-slicked character study of a life lived in slow motion.

Side A charts the album’s deepest waters in “The Abhà Kingdom.” Its understated flow of vibes, overdubbed horns, and cello courses in and out of sonar range, diving ever deeper with every muted clench, so that even Christensen’s accentuations seem to move at the speed of honey behind Friedman’s subdued yet strangely exuberant cartwheels. The afterimages of “Lament” would make the perfect backdrop for a Terje Rypdal excursion. Instead of that grinding song, we get the rounded icicles of Darling’s bow and the sustained arpeggio from vibes that leaves us hanging before dropping us onto Side B. Our guide on this descent is “Silver Rain.” The marimba vamp evokes an African thumb piano and affectionately embraces Clark’s processed horn. Friedman also shares a notable dialogue with Christensen here. Darling’s fluid threads are the binding force of “Faces In The Fire.” A comforting feeling of perpetuity abounds in that cello’s voice and brings out otherwise inaudible whispers. “Faces In The Sky” would feel right at home as the soundtrack for a road picture. Christensen beguiles with his delicacy, in which he cradles a delicate implication that never breaks, even under Darling’s far-reaching pizzicato. After all of this soul-searching, the carnivalesque “You Did It, You Did It!” ends the album in resolute jubilance.

Faces has a semi-porous quality and shimmers like the surface of an out-of-focus pool. It sits comfortably just below the rim of our consciousness, like a half-dream that one holds dear in the face of inevitable wakefulness.

<< Keith Jarrett: The Celestial Hawk (ECM 1175)
>> Walcott/Cherry/Vasconcelos: CODONA 2 (ECM 1177)

Double Image: Dawn (ECM 1146)

ECM 1146

Double Image
Dawn

David Samuels vibraharp, marimba
David Friedman vibraharp, marimba
Harvie Swartz bass
Michael DiPasqua drums, percussion
Recorded October 1978 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Double Image was the intermittent project of Davids Friedman and Samuels, whose vibes and marimbas found likeminded company in session musicians Harvie Swartz and Michael DiPasqua on Dawn, the second of only three albums for the group and their only for ECM. Having two jazz percussionists in the same space was something of a rarity in the late seventies, when the album was recorded, and perhaps contributed to its being swept under the carpet over time. What we have, however, is a smooth and airy set of four extended pieces more than worthy of a reissue.

Every gesture therein is artfully considered, as demonstrated to delightful effect in the opening “Passage.” Swartz’s buttery soft bass adds girth to the Friedman/Samuels nexus, where light and darkness walk hand in hand. While DiPasqua baits a hook for every loop, vibe notes hang like keys from a chain, swinging in a steady hand with a pleasant jingle. For the final stretch, marimbas smoke from a flame of cymbals before vibes recap with a sublimely resolute chord. These plaintive measures continue in “The Next Event,” where the marimba broadens its wingspan into “Sunset Glow.” And as that honeyed bass trickles slowly back in, the shaded sound is fleshed out into a colorful fan of sunrays. Swartz beatifies the final “Crossing,” which, over a steadily popping snare, flows with calm virtuosity before breathing down the neck of finality.

This album makes a fine addition to any mallet enthusiast’s collection and proves that, even as its drowsiest, ECM quietly towers above the rest. A personal favorite among the label’s painted covers as well.

<< Miroslav Vitous: First Meeting (ECM 1145)
>> Nana Vasconcelos: Saudades (ECM 1147)