Ben Goldberg

Almost Never

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Almost Never Review

by Thom Jurek

While it's true that a clarinet/guitar/bass record is a bit peculiar, at least in America, it shouldn't be. All three instruments have the ability to whisper, insist, cry, etc. -- though only the guitar can shout -- which gives them something in common. Both the guitar and clarinet are considered "melodic" instruments, and can be played as either lead instruments or past of an ensemble. This trio then focuses on the various aspects of instrumentation, voice, and color their chosen vehicles offer and combine them for a subtle, impressionistic journey through harmony and tonality. Suggestion is everything in this music, whether it be the subtle yet disjointed soundscape of "Pitchblend" (the title says everything); the odd melodic framework erected in "Secret Longway," where clarinet and guitar trade phrase for chord in a labyrinthine passage of modal entreaty; or in the bass rondo that kicks off "Zero." Trevor Dunn's droning string-work studies the shifting timbres of the E and A back and forth before Ben Goldberg and John Schott sift themselves into the mix, using pitch and meter to reveal brighter aspects of the timbral terrain spread out by Dunn. This is an intimate session, one that focuses on how what is said as well as what. Communication comes in warm tones and shaded shapes of sound rather than sheets of it. As a result, Almost Never is a recording that is, to quote the late poet Ted Berrigan, marvelous, feminine, and tough.

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