CD REVIEW: Cloudmakers Trio- Abstract Forces

CD REVIEW: Cloudmakers Trio- Abstract Forces
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4655. CD Review by Sarah Chaplin)

Jim Hart has helped to re-establish the vibraphone as a core component of the contemporary British jazz scene. His past releases have garnered huge respect for the new possibilities he has opened up on the instrument. Having previously released a CD of live material with New York trumpeter Ralph Alessi, this new album for Whirlwind Recordings showcases Hart’s trio on fine form, with plentiful fresh material.

The Cloudmakers Trio consist of Hart’s fellow Loop Collective collaborator Dave Smith on drums, an arch innovator who oozes polyrhythms from every pore, and none other than Whirlwind maestro himself, Michael Janisch, on bass. The definition of a top-drawer trio to my mind is one where each plays an equal role in performance, introducing ideas and leading the music into new places. This is certainly true of Abstract Forces. Take the opening number, Snaggletooth, for instance, which sets up a wonderful plucked drone over which Hart and Smith apply an offset sequence of insistent tones. It’s like moving steadily through a dense forest with a few clearings to pause and admire the clouds. Occasionally you catch a whiff of Freddie Hubbard's Little Sunflower rising out of the miasma, but it’s so fleeting you think you must have imagined it. On Angular Momentum it’s Hart who sets up the insistent tempo and rhythm, with many moments when the three come into a crisp, accented alignment, or double up the time feel, against Hart’s persuasive low-pitched narrative.

I particularly like the edgy contribution that Post Stone makes to the album. It sounds as if both Janisch and Hart are wielding bows and applying them to unlikely parts of their instruments while Smith potters away with a mixture of sticks, hands and maybe even fingernails on his drum kit. It’s a beautifully recorded piece of experimental a-tonal music, not unlike amplifying the antics of a whole bunch of insects stuck in a belljar. I’m not sure if they manage to escape or just invent a new way of getting along by the end of the track, but it’s feisty and original. By way of a complete constrast, next up is Early Hours which opens with a lovely private lyrical moment with Janisch on bass. You can actually hear him breathing on the recording right before vibes and drums join the meditative, almost medieval-sounding morning workout.

And that’s just the first four tracks – you’ve still got the quirky delights of Social Assassin and Conversation Killer to look forward to, evidence of just how powerful the effects of this album can be. Ramprasad is mysteriously and majestically other, a peek at some of the trio’s other cultural influences, of which I am sure we have plenty more to look forward to. Smith’s skittering drums, Hart’s strange augmented, almost theramin-like responses and the moody lines that Janisch pulls out speak volumes of their patient, attentive approach to building space and adventure into their music: it’s all utterly bewitching.

Album launch Friday October 3rd, Camberwell Crypt.

LINKS: Cloudmakers Live at the 2013 Whirlwind Festival
Jim Hart previews a 2013 gig
Jim Hart previews the 2013 album Launch
CD Review Live at Pizza Express by Chris Parker
Review of the 'Jim Hart Trio' with Ralph Alessi in 2010 

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