THOLLEM MCDONAS – Gone Beyond Reason To Find One


“Dedicated to people and everyone else”. Good man, Thollem McDonas, refusing to limit the extent of his music to selected members of the human race to embrace everybody. The same feeling of all-inclusiveness is given by this solo CD, subdivided in three episodes recorded in California and Italy, the first of which constituted a live accompaniment to Martha Colburn’s films.

Among the principal features of the pianist’s style is the ability of overwhelming without letting one feel intimidated. The massive polychordal cascades, the rumbling (yet never rambling) arpeggios, the perseveration in trying to locate the keyboard spots in which that roaring creature gathers energy and begins to fly. And then, just like that, the silence falls: the preceding reverberations still floating while McDonas starts working the insides of the instrument, scraping, dropping objects, tapping on the wooden constituents. It’s not what you call a veritable research; rather, an attempt to have the piano depicting the furious beauty and the subsequent sense of relief experienced in front of an imposing natural manifestation.

And, this writer notices, here Thollem’s renowned mercurial prestidigitations are kept to an indispensable minimum, masked in the mix in the name of a quasi-shamanic inspiration that he seems to summon forth before, during and even after the performances. The power comes and manifests itself, but its clout is not destructive or paralyzing. We see a succession of phases, almost able to picture the protagonist’s intensity, the eyes shut as plans dictated by a superior might get executed. Hovering clouds of growl – minus the howl – and delicate, nearly flower-picking touches of transparency merge in a sole entity. Tchaikovsky’s romantic spirit and (Keith) Tippett’s quest for unadulterated improvisation seem to reside nearby, in perfect accord.

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