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On Barnyard

Nate Dorward, Paris Transatlantic, 12 décembre 2008

Sax-drums duets can end up rather desiccated affairs through a lack of colour and the tendency towards shapeless duels, but Piano Music (Martin and alto saxophonist Evan Shaw) nicely evades all the cliches and limitations. Shaw is an interestingly varied player — on Sweeter than a plastic bag, for instance, you can hear him go from cool Osbyish obliquities to bebop in extremis, running through ideas so profligately it suggests either inspiration or desperation; Martin presses him forcefully, often matching his phrasing exactly, and clouds of out-of-tune chords (melodica, perhaps?) add an air of shadowy enchantment. As the punning title suggests, this is music that (without being particularly minimalist) finds a lot of shadings within a minimal palette, and Shaw is especially good at a kind of abraded purity, in which uncertain whispers or murmurs become a kind of melody. On A strong glue is not necessary his playing is so pared-down it’s like a Konitz ballad with four bars of rest between phrases--a space occupied by Martin’s terrific brushwork and a growing array of electronic squiggles and overdubs--until in the final moments Shaw’s playing fragments, then trails off into computery bleeps. A brief spoken-word cut-up listing Chinese delicacies is skippable, but the rest of the CD is consistently excellent, from the stunning long-form improv Rattlebag Jimmy to the cover of (wait for it…) the Shaggs’ Philosophy of the World.

The CD is consistently excellent

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