Muhal Richard Abrams

Muhal Richard Abrams: The Visibility of Thought

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Muhal Richard Abrams' work as a pianist in all forms of creative music derived from free jazz is well-known. It is not the case for his contemporary classical compositions. The Visibility of Thought was the first CD to focus on this part of his output. One of the first two initial releases by Thomas Buckner's label Mutable Music, it presents four contemporary pieces, one computer piece, and a 30-minute solo improvisation. Pianist Joseph Kubera is featured on three tracks. His duet with bassist Jon Deak ("Duet for Contrabass and Piano") features nice interplay but too much restraint. The same goes for the "Duet for Violin and Piano" with Mark Feldman, although here the listener feels something connecting with his deeper emotions. More flamboyant is "Baritone Voice and String Quartet" with Buckner and the ETHEL String Quartet. Here the disc reaches a highlight and some people might think of Charles Ives or Pierre Boulez. The "Piano Duet #1" (Kubera and Philip Bush) fails to strike as an inventive piece of music. The solemn computer piece "The Visibility of Thought" develops interesting textures, but one wishes it would be presented in a more appropriate context -- it feels out of place here. The "Piano Improvisation" completes the picture, featuring Abrams as a performer -- a great one. Strangely, it makes one wonder: "Why bother composing when you can improvise like that?." Abrams' writing is not without its moments, but it is unlikely that it will overshadow his recognition as a free jazz pianist.

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