CHES SMITH & THESE ARCHES – Finally Out Of My Hands

Skirl

Drumming composer Smith leads a quartet whose inventive vividness is directly proportional to the deserved fame of the participants, which include Andrea Parkins on accordion, electronics and organ, Mary Halvorson on guitar and Tony Malaby on tenor sax. There are several positives to highlight, starting from a perfect duration of 35 minutes which gives an idea of the group’s capacities without even getting near to straining the listener’s concentration. The unusual orchestration is not a problem, for the music is characterized by exactitude and intelligible turmoil at one and the same time; the lack of a bass is not felt, Parkins taking the control of the lower regions of the sonic palette via her left hand on the organ keyboard. Smith explains that he was more interested in how the single personalities worked inside the band rather than respecting the shapes of a classic line-up, besides looking for an advantageous contrast between the instrumental forces (the ensemble’s name refers to the importance of arches to sustain the weight of a bridge). The energy necessary to drive the pieces forward is born from the optimal balance of strapping pseudo-klezmer themes, melodic delicacy (Malaby is able to dazzle when deciding to switch to the gentler aspects of his playing, see “One Long Minute”), convoluted transparency – Halvorson being the most no-frills, outstandingly rational personality in the six-stringed macrocosm in recent times – and, essentially, a welcome vital sparkle transpiring from every second of the recording. Finally, Smith wins the “best track title” of 2011 with “Disgust For A Pathetic Chorale”. Hats off to that.

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