Jon Hassell: Abu Gil
Jon Hassell (trumpet, keyboard)
Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street (ECM 2077)
Peter Freeman (bass), Kheir-Eddine M’Kachiche (violin), Jan Bang (live sampling), Helge Norbakken (drums).
Composed by Jon Hassell.
Recorded: London, Novembe, 2008
Rating: 87/100 (learn more)
The first wave of electronics on the jazz world was big and brash, with banks of keyboards, noisy guitars, and speakers stacked to the rafters in a D-Day assault on the listeners' virgin ears. The new generation is more subtle, mixing in "effects" (what a quaint term . . . I can't wait until someone starts applying it to the culinary arts or money management) with traditional acoustic sounds. Sound painter Jon Hassell belongs to the second wave, boasting an odd pedigree that few jazz players can grok—when the rest of the cats were jamming on 'Rhythm' changes, Hassell was translating ragas to the trumpet, changing the shape of composed music with Terry Riley, mixing it up with Brian Eno, and studying the work of (the all-too-under-recorded) Pandit Pran Nath. The result is a highly stylized and peculiar body of work. Here Hassell is cooking up a thick aural soup, one that is just barely jazz, with touches of World Music, New Age and ambient sound. "Abu Gil," a 13-minute track, demonstrates Hassell's core strengths, especially his haunting trumpet sound—imagine a Miles Davis who practices Sufism—and the whizzing, buzzing, nature-walk textures of his accompanying ensemble. I would prefer a slightly crisper sound and more dynamic variety from the band—the waters get a little murky, and the rhythm section is very tame. But Hassell's trumpet work is heard to good effect here. I'm not sure "Abu Gil" would cut the mustard at the Village Vanguard, but it would get a standing ovation (or at least a lotus position ovation) at your local meditation center.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia