Gordon Beeferman is an undogmatic composer endowed with fairly stinging humor. All it takes to prove it is looking at his website’s “works” page and find out what he’s attracted by when he conceives an opera. Is that enough to call him a brilliant musician? Yes, if you add the manual facility shown on the keyboards – in this occasion, piano and Hammond C3 organ – and, in particular, the idiosyncratic multifariousness of his writing.
The debut album of the namesake quartet, also comprising the virtues of violist Stephanie Griffin, bassist Pascal Niggenkemper and drummer Andrew Drury, Other Life Forms is one of those lifelines sporadically thrown to commentators sick and tired of circumlocutions on what can only be described as jazz-tinged triteness. The “jazz” root in Beeferman’s music is indisputable. But so are the modern classical, advanced improvisation, non-committable-to-memory atonal whatchamacallit roots. The scores may look complex on paper but, for some miracle, the acoustic outcome sounds as natural as spring water.
The seven tracks emanate scents of just everything between a stimulating cartoon soundtrack and a chamber-esque impulsiveness with Monk-ish spices (Thelonious, not Meredith). Space is warranted for each component to technically shine, in the meantime wearing the occasional mocking face. Breakneck zigzags, paradoxical unisons, simultaneous intuitions sounding as tight as a human sequencer; listen to “Get Got” or “Bad Strategy” to understand. A collective resonance that leaves its particles entirely visible, at the same time annihilating any residual hope for the “let’s-nod-to-the-swing” specimens (although the latter might be clutching to a track named “Puddle Jump” to save themselves). And – in case someone misses them – even moments of introspection permeated by a somewhat uneasy anticipation: “Path” is perfect to exemplify what I’m referring to, a blend of lyricism and conscious reciprocal listening that calls for repeated spins, exactly as the rest of the program.
On a daily basis we are witnessing the perpetual glorification of “talents” merely changing dress to their clichés to get additional coverage. Subjecting ourselves to a record like this puts things back in the correct perspective. I don’t perceive Beeferman as a careerist who’s going to win polls while keeping his feet in the (former) avantgarde AND in the mainstream, perhaps alluring exploitable audiences by merging both worlds. What is most appreciated here is, purely and simply, his unequivocal commitment to the inspection of intriguing conjunctions. Which is what keeps an artist genuine, and still willing to improve.