The Blair Recordings

Steve Cohn

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The Blair Recordings Review

by Fran├žois Couture

The level of quality and interest in the productions put out on Leo Records is so constantly high that, whenever a weaker CD is released, listeners must be tempted to go back to it more times than usual in search of what might have been missed, trusting Leo Feigin's judgment against their own. Well, this time the conclusion imposes itself: The Blair Recordings is a bummer. A follow-up to Steve Cohn's fascinating 2000 album, Bridge Over the X-Stream, this CD leaves you cold at best, and in the worst-case scenario annoys you to a point where you'll stop the player before it reaches the end. The pianist's special sensibility has completely vanished from these crude keyboard compositions. The result of Cohn's collaboration with engineer Blair Hardman (hence the title), the album culls tracks recorded over a period of ten years. Half of the 14 tracks consist of multi-track keyboard pieces. The patches belong to the worst kind: cheap electronic drum settings, Casio and DX7-sounding horns -- you get the idea. They sound like Frank Zappa's mid-'80s Synclavier compositions on a bad day. A few tracks mercifully feature his shakuhachi playing. For a moment, listeners are lured into believing that the remainder of the set will amount to something. Three tracks also feature singer Johnny De Robertis, and there things really become interesting (making "Flee-ee You Eeyou" a highlight). As for the 13-minute keyboard-and-speech improvisation "Miller Time," it sounds like beat poetry at the Improv comedy club. Very disappointing.

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