Hall / Ranaldo / Hooker: Oasis Of Whispers (2006)
Whatever challenge there is in producing music evocative of nothing, this trio rises to it with skill and unity of purpose. And the results are single-minded enough to be worthy of the utmost admiration. This does, however, leave me obliged to discuss the music without falling back on the usual superlatives. Thus, describing Glen Hall's bass clarinet in the beginning of "The Mechanism" as "brooding" might just about nail it, but it doesn't do justice either to his work or to the overall visceral intensity of the piece.
By the same token, Lee Ranaldo's guitar part on "Eyemote" might contain the faintest echoes of Hans Reichel's approach to the instrument, while the same musician's use of "audio collage" elsewhere might just have the same effect for some listeners as Keith Rowe's use of a short wave radio with AMM. But ultimately such comparisons serve only to imperfectly define the music for listeners not acquainted with what's on offer here.
Within this group's paradoxically expansive yet singular frame of reference, the Sonny Rollins original "Blue Seven" becomes something else entirely, and chances are that what it becomes is far from uppermost in the composer's thoughts. It does, however, serve to show what an extraordinary drummer William Hooker is, his mastery of flow somehow unimpeded by broken rhythms. His work is as singular as that of Sunny Murray.
What's also worthy of consideration here is the fact that the music is not always a relentlessly high-octane affair. "Oasis Of Whispers" itself displays a grasp of detail every bit as refined as the Art Ensemble Of Chicago in the days before they had a specialist drummerthough the music of the two groups overlaps in only a negligible way.
When it comes down to it, this is improvised music with staying power. Through not simply avoiding the obvious, but apparently refusing to countenance its very existence, this trio produces music whose singularity makes it both enticing and forbidding, so listeners can figuratively roll their sleeves up and get stuck in.
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Track Listing: The Mechanism; Eyemote; Blue Seven; Conference Call; H2; Sonarisme; View From Bellevue; Oasis Of Whispers; Blow.
Personnel: Glen Hall: tenor/soprano saxophones, flute, bass flute, piccolo; bass clarinet, percussion; Lee Ranaldo: guitar, audio collages, effects; William Hooker: drums.