Charlie Haden / Julian Lloyd Webber / Nexus

Gavin Bryars: Farewell to Philosophy

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The title piece from this album falls into line with many of Bryars' compositions after 1985 or so. In this case, it's a cello concerto with Julian Lloyd Webber in the soloist's role, but the music is generally quite similar to works by Bryars on recordings such as After the Requiem or The Last Days, which is to say broodingly romantic with a strong melancholic tinge. The music evokes perhaps a "northern" sensibility in terms of a bittersweet bleakness, and does this very well, but one gets the impression that the composer has long since mastered this particular genre and wishes that, with all his great talents, Bryars would move on. The intriguingly titled "One Last Bar, The Joe Can Sing," written for and played by the percussion ensemble Nexus, also reminds the listener of prior works by Bryars, in this case those featured on his album Hommages. Again, however, little new ground is covered and, indeed, a softness bordering on blandness seems to have settled in. "By the Vaar," featuring the great bassist Charlie Haden, rounds out the disc and, unfortunately, also disappoints. Haden's rich, soulful pizzicato playing is out front throughout and is a joy to hear, but the accompaniment is so relentlessly dreary, almost lugubrious, that it manages to drain the work of all the energy and vitality that Haden might infuse. However, parts of the composition are surprisingly reminiscent of Keith Jarrett's pieces for Haden on Arbour Zena; though Bryars is generally the superior composer, Jarrett was better able to make use of the bassist's creativity.

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