Guitarist Mark Wingfield with Markus Reuter, fretless bass player Yaron Stavi and drummer Asaf Sirkis have made the excellent album The Stone House (see review). Also the release of Lighthouse (see review) recorded without Stavi was worth listening to. It was the result of putting together a couple of musicians from the Moonjune label who came up with some interesting musical sessions. Well sometimes the outcome is great music wise. But sometimes you don't get the chemistry which the musicians probably had during those sessions. So why release it you ask yourself. If the collaboration between the earlier mentioned Mark Wingfield and Gary Husband would turn out to be very interesting music wise is a question I can give an answer to. Together they released Tor & Vale.
A true meeting of spirits is what I like to say about the musical pairing of guitarist Wingfield and pianist Husband. Yes this time around Gary can't be found behind the drum kit but shows all his musical talents on the black and white keys of an acoustic piano. As a duo there appears to be a special chemistry between the two of them. For the sessions on this album, they started playing a number of Gary's compositions, but that actually went so smoothly that they added a number of improvisations.
Both ventured into a dialogue in which they did not immediately deny their past but certainly did not use it as an absolute starting point. They did, however, adhere to their sense of adventure. Thus, Tor & Vale eventually became a scan between possible constructions on the border of avant-garde, jazz, prog and fusion. In turn, they introduce ideas and themes that are then slowly expanded. Excesses and excessive solos are not included. Of course Wingfield regularly stretches contributions, but Husband always frames these passages very effectively.
The three longest songs are joint improvisations, the other pieces were supplied by Wingfield. The fact that the recordings took place in La Casa Murada in Spain, a studio located in an old farmhouse from the twelfth century, most probably helped to determine the very open atmosphere that was more than regularly drawn by spacy layers. Tor & Vale is ultimately synonymous with a succession of alternating lyrical sonities and extremely pragmatic and thoughtful structures and is therefore impossible to classify under a defined format.
While listening to this very special instrumental album, I realised this release is not a cup of tea for everybody. The sometimes difficult to digest musical improvisations demand very much from the listener. I have to say it took me a while to fully appreciate the musical effort done by two very professional musicians. But when you really get in to it you might hear some interesting stuff. Try if you dare I might say to all of you out there! Probably also recommended to fans of Brian Eno, Todd Rundgren, Robert Fripp and Terje Rypdal.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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