Can impavid fighters against remunerative compromise sound so intelligibly sweet while improvising, to the point of having us wondering where the score is? Does artistic significance automatically imply inhospitable counterpoint? Is procedural sharpness a necessary negation of the magnification of conterminous instrumental details?
Crackleknob is a fully grown, moderately aerated recording combining brilliantly unique representatives of the modern jazz/free music scene gathered under the umbrella of respect, both reciprocal and for the audience. Mary Halvorson’s rational approach to the fingerboard is nirvana for those, like yours truly, who are tired of listening to trite versions of standards and/or incoherent finger-babbling aptly described as “spontaneous abandonment of technique” to hunt hypothetical liberties, a smart translation for “absence of ideas”. Reuben Radding is a lyrically composite bassist, his timbre a balanced mixture of demulcent harmonics, visionary abstractions and immediate mutability, cogent insertions permanently at the service of a pre-established cooperative cleverness. Nate Wooley is still able to extract drops of vital juice from the ghosts of famous men with the horn to transform those essences in invigorating fumes of timbral disintegration and not-exactly-diplomatic excrescences, halfway through a caustically refined helpmate and a coroner analyzing the corpse of a hermaphrodite variety of jazz.
“Quavering Voices Of The Mutilated” is the ultimate explanation of what these people do together: as Halvorson seams obstinately angular patterns and logically articulated spikes of anti-melodic percussiveness tinged by her strings’ nudity, at times deciding to dish up the companions with solitary chordal shards and Fripp-ish dissonant arpeggios, Radding punctuates the interplay with a considerable degree of ascendancy on the trio’s essential sonority, appearing as a man who has finally decided to settle for a somewhat regular way of life after having tasted the assorted facets of sonic intemperance, Wooley observing, taking notes and – often unexpectedly – coming out with cloudy lines that might occasionally manifest anomalously, yet maintain that quid of prosperousness guaranteeing auditory fulfilment even to the less expert recipient. “Caldwell, 1925” is a remarkable pictogram of how delicately acoustic this collaboration reveals itself to be, Wooley placing stripes of lament adjacent to Halvorson’s clean-sounding whirlwinds, Radding choosing the right strokes to collate the parts in a total unity, potential breakup tendencies absorbed by a wonderfully emotional, only apparent fragility that – on the contrary – defines once and for all the genuine soul of this human combination, which indeed inhabits a superior responsiveness.
Explains the trumpeter: “In general, we work at making the cleanest, most elegantly simple piece of music that we can”. But it’s not stylishness or minimalism we’re dealing with. Crackleknob is one of those albums where skilled ears notice the presence of something much deeper, the sense of almost supernatural intuition that distinguishes a masterpiece from a mere “good job”. A record that hopefully won’t remain covered by the soil of ignorance, shining bright amidst the diverse intriguing challenges that these musicians have tackled in their respective careers to date. Let’s use the word: a classic.