Reviewed by John Clare, October 1st, 2015
This is a very valuable recording of a musical conversation between two superb artists, one older than I am by two months (like most of the great men we were born in 1940), the other (Pike) relatively young. The recording was beautifully made over two days in March at Rainbow Studio, Oslo. Just how much of the framework of each piece was preconceived and how much was created in real time is not known at this stage, nor is it terrifically important because the music would stand up as written composition or however else it was achieved. Stand up and more. Having seen the duo perform (more of that later), I know that much if not all of this interactive music was improvised. It is surely free improvisation of unfailingly pleasing and interesting quality. That is, sensually and aesthetically pleasing and intellectually interesting.
Some “free jazz” has been highly inclusive, indeed deliberately inclusive in some cases of exotic as well as classical and jazz influences, while some has explored texture, or pure energy in a seemingly exclusive way. Here, it seems that no element was deliberately excluded, but a decision seems to have been made – consciously or not – to maintain a feeling of thoughtfulness bordering on or moving into the realm of meditation, however active or tranquil the music.
To listen to what your colleague is playing while inventing and forming your own ideas: this is a marvellous potential of music and other non-verbal expression. Try composing a speech or poem aloud while listening closely to what someone else is saying. As it happens I am writing this (with a fountain pen) while watching at this moment a train or tram running along the top of the viaduct outside with lights flashing. The difference is that I am describing something, not inventing.
What then am I hearing? We have running piano lines in the treble. Stately dances. Spry and folk like dances. We have lyrical lines. We have lines running and lyrical and we have grave dark descending chords like heavy cargo sinking slowly in deep waters.
We have the whole panoply of that marvellous instrument the jazz drum kit, likewise the rock development of same. In an early section Pike produces tiny pings so delicately struck that it is hard to tell at first which are indeed made with a triangle and which with the very tip of a drum stick on the central dome of a cymbal. Tom toms and swishing cymbals, muffled mallet patterns and then the piano slowly rising and falling, all sound at the same time, a simultaneous complex made possible in part through sustain. And appearing here and there like a tiny star through branches in a black night, the bright ting, and again ting.. At the same time, in all seriousness, I am reminded of the cymbal sounding against the orchestra in the first movement of Bartok’s Piano Concerto No 2, drawing the ear towards it with its magnetic refractions.
This is music of great beauty and intrigue. It will be launched at the venue Colbourne Avenue in St John’s Rd, Glebe (Sydney) on October 15. This little hall, attached to a Uniting Church, is one of the best listening rooms for intimate music in Sydney. It is here that I heard this duo some time ago.
Readers who don’t follow this music may be interested to learn a little more about the great Mike Nock. There is a short tribute to him on my blog at www.johnclare.id.au .