Paul Hession

Giant Soft Drum Set

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Drummer Paul Hession's surname rhymes with "session"; he may be the only recording artist to actually devise a track title to reinforce proper pronunciation of his name. "Hession/Session...A Clue to Pronunciation" is the opening salvo on a collection of solo percussion pieces apparently inspired by surrealist artist Claes Oldenburg's sculpture of a drum kit that looks like it has melted in the heat. Some listeners may want to melt anybody who records a solo drum album, just like was done to Margaret Hamilton in the original Wizard of Oz. Others may be proud of claiming they have audited every solo percussion outing in existence. Hession recorded his contribution to this canon -- perhaps cannon would more appropriate considering some of the tympani sounds -- in 1996, releasing it in 1998. A pair of locations in a piano warehouse provided the recording backdrop.

Despite Hession's best intentions, the lesson concerning his surname may be hard to concentrate on once the CD starts playing, the drummer sounding like he chopped up the entire contents of his house into tiny pieces just so he could toss it all back and forth across the tops of his tubs. Elsewhere, Hession becomes enamored with borrowed tympani and hand-made gong, a good example of sounds that are so vivid that further compositional devices are hardly necessary.

Superb playing with what sounds like brushes is a highlight of the 13-minute title track, basically the conclusion of the program as the final two pieces go by in a matter of seconds, a bit similar to the kind of miniatures the Dutch drummer Han Bennink has documented on his own solo CDs. While comparisons are being made, Hession's style can be considered a stark contrast to that of fellow U.K. drummer Paul Lytton, whose improvisations often don't sound like a drum set at all. The natural sound is the crux here, emphasized by the previously mentioned brilliant decision as to recording locale. Each natural drum sound picks up a refreshing gloss, becomes a chocolate covered cherry. An exception took place while zipping away from the speakers for a moment to fetch coffee: upon return, it sounded like Hession had trapped and tortured a ferret under one of his cymbals.

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