Rich Pellegrin, with his Three-Part Odyssey
, has created a rich, multi-layered and textured work for his first opus on OA2 records out of Seattle, Washington. Texture is used rather glibly in music reviewing circles, but seems deserved on this album. It almost seems an experiment solely in texture-- sacrificing melody, harmony, structure, development, all at the altar of texture and timbre. Or rather, using changing and shifting textures, rather than traditional melodic and harmonic thematic development, to create musical structure and unity. Listen. Really listen, the album seems to be saying, to the simple sound of a bass playing it's sing-song, solo meanderings at the top of 'Breathe'. Listen and really hear the ticky-tack madness of the drumming at around the 10:00 mark of 'Nothing Comes To Mind', the first tune, just before the 'head' comes back. Creating interest thru the scrape of a bow across a string, or thru impishly lingering in the highest (or lowest) reaches of an instrument's range. Taking nothing for granted. That seems to be the method of this group, and one he shares with a new breed of jazz artist.
Not content with simply creating new beautiful melodies, or recreating and improvising on cherished melodies of yore, artists like Pellegrin, along with innovative New York-based musicians like guitarist Miles Okazaki and drummer Dan Weiss, seem to call into question the very practice of listening, the very idea of musical structure. These songs can seem to devolve into aimless improvs, but then along comes a carefully stacked reentry of each instrument before a sharp, precise cut-off at the end of 'Nothing Comes to Mind' to blow your theory all to hell. It's not random soloists showing off their skills. That is the downfall of jazz. With all these artists it feels, in a very real way, like they're trying to communicate something new, like they're trying to communicate with each other, too, like they're searching, searching, and trying to give you an urgent message in this most abstract of languages. Hey buddy- your house is on fire! They might be a dog come from the woods. All they can do is howl. So they howl.
The howl comes of frustration, a frustration symptomatic of, dare I say, OUR MODERN TIMES. This is an age where email is becoming obsolete because it is too long, too stodgy. Where 140 characters appears to be as much space as you'll be given to say ANYTHING. Artists turn that frustration to something meaningful, something beautiful. Three-Part Odyssey
is not trying to create a pop tune. It's the antithesis of pop. It's not even 'trying', one could say, to create a gorgeous ballad, though 'Distant, Distorted, You' is a modern, lyric love song that will make you melt. It's divine. It's all good. But that's not the point.
What Pellegrin-- what Okazaki, with his jagged, fearsomely tight compositions, what Weiss with his quirky, utterly virtuosic explorations-- what they all seem to be saying is: wait. stop. shut up. listen. listen to yourself, your true simple self, a skill that we all too often undervalue or lose sight of before our newfound text- and tweetability.
This music says I'm not going to compete. put down the phone. close the screen. listen. give yourself time. this is too important. and not important at all. it is simply life, what I'm feeling, what I'm doing now. Listening to these sorts of long-form explorations, you can reconnect with that real time, textured existence that have been swallowed up by texting and youtubing. Texting and the addictive magpie-mind of the web have their place, sure, but they're greedy, they want all of your mind, all the time. Let's remember who we are. We have ears that hear. A nose that breathes. Take a deep breath. Be here now. Pellegrin et al have a simple message: Hear how I feel. And, perhaps, if you'll allow it, in that sacred din, hear yourself, too.