CHRISTOPHER HOFFMAN – Silver Cord Quintet

Asclepius

When it comes to deciding about a review, things often work in unexpected ways. I was enjoying Christopher Hoffman’s recent Multifariam, an unaccountable combination of soundtrack materials, extravagant electroacoustic collages and much more that I warmly invite everybody to check out. While studying Hoffman’s impressive CV (featuring names such as Martin Scorsese, Yoko Ono and Henry Threadgill among several others) my eyes were captured by this CD from 2016. Eight original compositions plus a semi-drunken rendition of Henry Purcell’s “When I Am Laid In Earth”. The leader – a mean cellist – is flanked by Tony Malaby on sax, Ben Gerstein on trombone, Kris Davis on piano and Craig Weinrib on drums.

The listening sessions were repeated, and are still going on. It is usually a good sign when a record shuffles spontaneity, impossibility to learn by rote and urge to return to it for a better comprehension of its mechanics. Silver Cord Quintet did exactly that, every time revealing uncommon perspectives and awesome musicianship. It conveys the technical brilliance and the creative vitality of artists who mix a descriptive tension with the will to be entirely understood.

As it happens with this sort of statement, the thematic density might be hard to tackle at first, at least for audiences convinced that dissonance is not a fundamental constituent of the universal architecture. But when one really wants to study – for example, learning how asymmetrical rhythms in parallel with two or three atonal designs improve the cerebral abilities – then the genuine fun begins. Each voice finds its correct place in assorted settings; the jazz lineage is sapiently merged with contrapuntal choices that would be envied by many contemporary classical composers. The structural clarity is admirable, to the point that even the blowouts appear as the logic outcome of a careful preparation to the ignition.

Anyhow, we’re not talking war here. On the contrary, this music’s noteworthy complexity hides a tendency to peacefulness, best explicated by the gorgeous “Epistle”. Preserving a balance in between contrasting states of mind can be achieved through intelligent behavior and silent focus; now you understand why there’s no chance for a crowd to authentically advance to superior stages of awareness. Only rare specimens of sonic surveyors do, for they intuit – and never reveal just for the sake of the ego – the true laws.

Don’t tell this to the Average Joes who pretend to be special, though. They could be irremediably traumatized.

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