In another circumstance we would be here talking about a record of improvisations for piano. But in the case of As If As, what appears to be improvised – at least most of it – is scored. More precisely by Chris Burn, a clever pianist specializing in interpretations of Henry Cowell and John Cage’s works among others, and a multi-instrumentalist composer, arranger and conductor whose activities in the English free music collectivity are well documented.
Philip Thomas, himself an outstanding pianist, is the right man to concretely project Burn’s perspective (including a transcription of, get this, extracts from Derek Bailey’s Solo Guitar Vol.2). The grammar of this album may be rather difficult to understand for the newcomer given the large doses of harmonic atypicality and rhythmic fragmentation, yet it is chock full of delights for those who can distinguish between a rational balancing of said and unsaid and random rants replete with purposeless gesticulation.
Thomas – aided by Kate Ledger in the final track “The Sky A Silver Dissonance” – lets the music breathe beautifully, translating with rare incisiveness the spaces, velocities, beams and clusters provided by Burn’s writing. In the introductory notes, he emphasizes “the subtleties of the harmonics which are revealed after attacks, but also (…) the silences, the anticipations”. He obviously can’t state that it is thanks to his prowess that these characteristics shine as we, the lucky ones, listen. Such kind of fairness in a virtuoso’s attitude will find favorable ground in this writer’s soul forever. Hopefully, the same will happen to the readers persuaded by the words.