Nobu Stowe: An die Musik (2008)
Knowledge is hierarchical and contextual, with the need of integrating the new into the old without contradiction. Furthermore, conclusions reached must also be contextual, meaning that they are conditioned by the state of the knowledge from which they are drawn.
What does this have to do with pianist Nobu Stowe and An Die Musik? The act of judging an artist's output as good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, which is different than like or dislike, must center on whether the work in question presents an integrated point of view. That is, can an artistic viewpoint be clearly perceived, has the extraneous be pruned, do the details work to create a whole?
Stowe makes no bones about the influence pianist Keith Jarrett has had on his musical thought. In particular, he terms his creative attitude "total-improvisation," by which he means the creation of an easily recognizable, internally coherent (and, of course, beautiful) melody (which also implies the same for phrasing and harmony) in an improvisatory context.
Stowe's rising visibility comes from both perseverance and a complete adherence to his artistic principles. An Die Musik is light years away in total impact from his two previous releases, Brooklyn and New York Moments (Konnex, 2006) and Hommage an Klaus Kinski (Soul Note, 2007), primarily because the earlier releases highlight the clash between Stowe's melodic improvisations and the free playing of the rest of the band. Here, since he has no competitive improvisatory voice, the music is much closer to Stowe's main project, Trio Ricochet.
It is interesting that the liner makes a point of saying that "no pre-composed material was used," because Stowe has such an amazing ability to create melodies that they sound composed. Whether they are truly spontaneous or drawn from an unconscious well is irrelevant to their clarity of line and construction.
The album is divided into duos with Alan Munshower (Trio Ricochet's drummer), and trios that add tablaist Badal Roy. Because tablas are tuned drums and Roy could not bring his complete set to the gig, the trios sound static harmonically, rubbing against the rhythmic complexity and very cool groove that the instrument adds.
Stowe is naturally more exposed in the duos, where the tension between the simultaneous desires of creating a tonal melody while maintaining an improvisatorial flow is most easily heard. Clear harmonic progressions which move through straightforward phrasing and repetitive figures confine the music's possible complexity, leaning more towards Jarrett's Koln Concert (ECM, 1975) than his later Radiance (ECM, 2005).
Those who prefer the solo playing of, say, Russ Lossing on All Things Arise (HatOLOGY, 2007) might find An Die Musik simplistic. However, when judged on its own terms, Stowe has created a very successful work.
Track Listing: Duo I; Trio I; Duo V; Trio II; Duo IV; Trio III; Duo VII; Solo Tabla; Duo III; Trio IV; Pochi.
Personnel: Nobu Stowe: piano; Alan Munshower: drums; Badal Roy: tabla.