Robin Holcomb/Wayne Horvitz


Calling the piano an element that's of paramount importance for the music of both Robin Holcomb and Wayne Horvitz can sound quite banal if one thinks of the compositional process, but not-so-banal after all if one thinks of the performance area. The piano has always been a big part of the aural landscape of Holcomb's albums, from her (definitely underappreciated) albums of songs (the most recent, The Big Time, was released in 2002), to works such as Little Three (1996), where long compositions speak through solo piano. Maybe the most "psychedelic" of modern (but, fortunately, not "post-modern") keyboard players, Wayne Horvitz's name immediately recalls to the mind the Hammond B-3, the Yamaha DX-7, the Fender Rhodes and the Clavia Nord Lead, not the acoustic piano. So listening to an album where the two play (separately) solo piano can be a nice and stimulating experience; a lot of variety, too: composition and improvisation; brief and long tracks; originals and remakes. Very good recorded sound, an excellent piano (it's a Steinway D - but listen to the way some notes played by Horvitz in the closing track, Crispin And Lisa's Duet, almost seem to come from a Rhodes!), a "double layer" album: CD and SA-CD.

The first track, Reno, is a good example of the quasi-neoclassical shade of Holcomb's world, while the following tracks, Tired and Armageddon (the latter a composition by Wayne Shorter) show Horvitz's usual pronunciation, where it's not impossible to see Otis Spann behind Monk's Functional; just a bit later, Joanna's Solo sounds as if implicitly offering some orchestration choices (Doug Wielselman?). The Pleasure Of Motion presents Holcomb in a rare free improvisation, maybe with a faint echo of Cecil Taylor. The only long track of the CD, Before The Comet Comes is a Holcomb composition, complex and with multiple themes as it's usual for her (but listen to the almost-Horvitz echoes starting at 10'58"). The other tracks follow the same script but are not less beautiful for this: the more "jazzy" Horvitz can be heard in Stars Fell On Alabama and Buttermilk Hill, while the two tracks called Interpretation show him in his improvising mode; The Road To Zamora (those who remember Todos Santos, raise your hands) and Up Do make us connect with Holcomb's past. The already-mentioned Crispin And Lisa's Duet is a perfect close.

In closing, we can define Solos as that rare example of an album that's not at all difficult to listen to but that, given time, can reveal a lot: discretely, with intelligence.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2005 | June 5, 2005