January 02, 2012
When was the last time you picked up a CD two-fer that gathered Herrmann, Janacek, and Stravinsky along with Radiohead, the Cocteau Twins, and John McLaughlin? Never, ya say? Good, ’cause neither have I…until now, and I wasn’t sure it could be pulled off even while ordering the item from the Flaming Hot Picks menu FAME privately keeps in ultra-secret computer encryptions at Cheyenne Mountain so that parachuting terrorist critics from East Slobbovia can’t compromise America’s dead-serious furrowed brow re: music and its effects on man. Think of it! Some satanic scribe fiddling with our collective consciousness via wily smart-aleck cynical deviances? It is to shudder!!! In fact…oh, wait a minute, I’m supposed to be reviewing a CD here.
NPR host Christopher O’Riley, some may remember, issued a solo piano tribute to Radiohead that wasn’t entirely successful (Wiki-ly described as “moderate”). Why? Too bleak, too spare, even for Thom Yorke’s frequently glacial timbres (which, um, are oft arctically lush, the key to much of Yorke’s success), and this outing shows exactly why the gent should’ve doubled up for that release in the same way he did with Matt Haimovitz on cello for Shuffle. Play. Listen. O’Reilly’s adroit piano lines open up 200% in such an atmosphere. Haimovitz is equally adept, and the two reach to ECM levels in this disc, the selection of Suite Italienne (Stravinsky after Pulcinella) the sort of thing Manfred Eicher would favor immensely…though Manny mightn’t too rhapsodically swoon over the almost prog interpretation and resonance the duo puts into the mid-section. I certainly do, regardless, and so will many connoisseurs of both modes.
Proving my earlier point, however, the second disc opens in a whirlwind of a reading of Arcade Fire’s Empty Room, a leaping sprinting tornado that creates itself and then bullets the environment forward in breakneck lines before heading into Radiohead’s slow stately Pyramid Song, where Haimovitz’s cello enriches the environment hugely, pulling O’Riley’s lines along with it. Prog-heads will freak when they find Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Dance of Maya and A Lotus on Irish Streams in the mix, Haimovitz’s readings much moodier then Jerry Goodman’s. In fact, a Gothic shroud pervades most of the CD, a quality imbued by both men in a beautifully entablatured set of pieces often rendered contiguous by interpretation alone, forming a panorama rather than mainstays and interludes.
by Mark S. Tucker
View at Acoustic Music