For starters, I have to thank Jon Rose and Chris Abrahams for indirectly teaching this nescient reviewer something on the life of Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks, a unique figure – to say the least – whose music I’m now certainly willing to deepen. However, I would have thanked them at any rate. This became a certainty as soon as the promo of this unheralded album was received, the mere names of the players enough to make me start salivating in quarters, fifths and sevenths of tone.
In fact, the quality that mainly defines Rose’s work is his systematic rebellion against the ordinariness of regular tuning; in a way, the man is a poster boy for the “badly tempered” violinoid whatever. Rose could extract useful sonorities by bowing the strings of a drying rack, but there will always be someone reacting to the unusual consonance – no, it’s NOT dissonance – as if they were watching a documentary on the eating habits of flies. Their fault, for a whole world of learning lies inside the lines of age of modified violins. Those pitches just shout “don’t trust your customary aesthetic sense, listen to what we transmit”.
A pianist might not appear as the ideal partner for JR, but Chris Abrahams knows a thing or two about the variable dynamics of unpremeditated interplay. That knowledge – principally grounded on a rare ability to respond to interlocutors without overwhelming them – is essential to warrant the six tracks a wonderful balance. All the more impressive when one considers that several passages see the prevalence of tenebrous resonances in a thrumming vehemence (case in point, “Peggy 6”). Even in moments of apparent relinquishment of sensibility, though, these gentlemen exemplify the parallelism of coherent improvisers inevitably yielding a bracing air of intelligent contrapuntal advancement.
And this is how we ultimately want to label Peggy. An intelligent record that, to quote the press release, “probably is not for everybody, but seldom real innovators are”.