"Seis De Mayo"
first thing that came into my mind after listening to the new - and
quite atypical - album by Trey Anastasio (of course, he's the "primus
inter pares" of USA quartet named Phish) was King Crimson's Prelude:
Song Of The Gulls. Does anybody remember it? It was a composition for
oboe and orchestra which - quite unexpectedly, and quite disarmingly
- popped up on the second side of the album called Islands (1971). A
composition that was strangely naive, given the fact that Islands was
the fourth Crimson album for which Robert Fripp had written the music.
I immediately decided to skip that track every time I'd play that side.
De Mayo" is the name of the short album (a bit under half an hour)
where Anastasio has assembled some of his brief compositions and a longer
one, all played by line-ups that are "orchestral" in instrumentation
if not in size, Guyute being the only track that's played by a full-size
orchestra. It was to be expected: an omnivorous listener, Anastasio
has always been in love with "classic harmony" jazz and "classical
music", his passion for fugues being a well-known fact since the
early days of Phish, more than twenty years ago, and already present
on the first group album, Junta (1988).
the last few years traces have started to appear on record - check At
The Gazebo and Ray Dawn Balloon, the nice tracks featured on the album
simply titled Trey Anastasio (2002). Then, I seemed to notice his compositional
hand being surer when dealing with reeds and winds than string instruments,
and it's an impression that for me stands after listening to "Seis
De Mayo": an album that in time reveals a kind of fragile grace
but - in so differently from his work with the tentet - seems to be
destined to remain a footnote in Anastasio's musical journey, a kind
of "growin' up in public". In my opinion the album shows a
lack of adventurousness in Anastasio's orchestral writing, which in
quite a few instances reminded me of "film music" (but nowadays
the term seems to indicate something pretty different).
The Giant, the first track, is a nice opening move: here we have Mike
Gordon on bass, Abou Sylla on balafon and Fode Bangoura on djembe, besides
Anastasio's acoustic guitar. Prologue is closely related to the instrumental
intro to the track called Pebbles And Marbles, off the very good album
Round Room (2002). The Inlaw Josie Wales is a nice reprise for acoustic
guitar and string quartet of the fine composition of the same name featured
on Farmhouse (2000), All Things Reconsidered a successful reprise of
the intricate composition that had already appeared on Rift (1993).
I found the following brief tracks - Coming To, with Jon Fishman on
drums, and Discern (Intro) - to be quite successful, maybe due to their
instrumentation. The final track is an arrangement of the long piece
titled Guyute, which had already appeared in a version for "rock
quartet" on The Story Of The Ghost (1998). It's obviously the most
ambitious track here, but one that left me puzzled: on ...Ghost ,Guyute
was the atypical moment in an album that was fragmented and funky, where
it appeared to refer to old proto-progressive climates; this orchestral
version, at times of a Rossini-like exuberance, really sounds too conventional.
© Beppe Colli 2004
CloudsandClocks.net | May 26, 2004