Can You See with Two Sets of Eyes?

Marc Hannaford, piano, with Ellery Eskelin,Tom Rainey, Scott Tinkler
Experimental Music, Jazz
Reviewed by , March 1st, 2015

If you have ever had the pleasure of conversing with Marc Hannaford, or of reading his regular blog ‘Dualism aside…’, you are likely to have been quick to establish for yourself that he is extremely serious about life and music. In listening through his latest album – beautifully recorded in New York City and released in conjunction with his winning a prestigious Freedman Jazz Fellowship in 2013 – Hannaford’s dedication to serious musical discipline is more than abundantly evident.

Marc Hannaford

Marc Hannaford

Comprising an evenly balanced collective of players from antipodean origin – two from Australia, and two from America – Hannaford’s acoustic quartet showcases high-level interaction between four of the most robustly virtuosic and delicately thoughtful musicians alive today. Melbourne-based Scott Tinkler brings trumpet playing of exceptional stamina and radial inventiveness. Tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin’s contribution throughout is elegant and expansive, never passing at the opportunity to weave a crystalline thread of beauty and grace into the music, but not without an earthy edge and bite to his tone. At the drums is Tom Rainey, one of the great and ever-evolving veterans of spontaneous improvisation. Here, Rainey’s drumming spans the sonic gamut from all-out romping and bashing with sticks to a more gentle caress with brushes and mallets – always demonstrating his deftly gifted sense of metric composure and poise.

Hannaford’s pianism is a thoroughly engaging study in itself. One striking and consistent feature of his improvisations – whether or not a conscious attempt on his part – is his achievement of an aesthetic in structure and timbre that recalls some of Schoenberg’s brilliant Klavierstücke (Piano Pieces). Whether this is achieved through his touch at the instrument, by his concept of phrasing, by the contour of his melodies, or by the placement of his staggering polychordal clusters is something I’ll leave for you to decide. From time to time, Hannaford’s svelte single-note improvised melodies bear a resemblance to the nimble mode of thought that one might hear Mike Nock employ when navigating through such textures. At times these lines dovetail with, and at other times contrast to, the voluptuousness of his chord voicings.

Perhaps one of the album’s finest features is the variety with which greatly intricate rhythmic intrigue is achieved. This is most overtly evident in Framed, Berlin and Spechsinder. The variety of this rhythmic intrigue is also achieved with more subtle effect in the brooding of the slower passages comprising opening track Murmur, which is laden with an exquisitely refined respect for the silence and stillness between the notes.

#2 and Spechsinder feature most of the elements of the album that would be aligned with more of a conventional jazz setting – the former for its faint echoes of Monk, and the latter for its unbridled quartet improv. Spechsinder is certainly the loudest and most energetically forward-moving piece of the six.

Marc Hannaford gives his award-winning performance at Freedman Jazz

Marc Hannaford gives his award-winning performance at Freedman Jazz

Some may view this as “a band without a bass”. A more proper view would be to see that this band is orchestrated completely using trumpet, tenor, piano and drums. Rainey and Hannaford handle the bass register admirably throughout, leaving no sense of omission in instrumentation whatsoever. The lineup on this album also begs to exploit the many exciting solo, duo and trio possibilities available. You will be pleased to find many such combinations seamlessly sprinkled throughout.
Embracing the conventions of today’s New Music Industry, this album is self-released and available in digital format from your choice of vendor when you visit the ‘buy’ page on Hannaford’s website.

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