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Art of the Duo: At the Middle

Geoff Goodman & Fjoralba Turku



Geoff Goodman & Fjoralba Turku

Production Infos




Peter Wiessmüller

Amazone Studios, Munich

Germany, Fenn Music


ART OF THE DUO: AT THE MIDDLE „The musical paths of the Albanian singer Fjoralba Turku and of the guitarist from New York Geoff Goodman have crossed several times over the past decade: Tabla & Strings, Fjoralba Turku Quintet, Curiosities of Nature, Jazz and Haiku – and now in the most challenging of all disiplines - the Art of the Duo. In their dialogue, these two mirror images of each other celebrate their cultural roots and their respective cultural journeys: Albanian folk songs, Japanese haikus, blues and jazzy forays are integrated into one authentic, frequently breath-taking whole in a chamber music framework.“ (Deutschland Radio Kultur) Brilliant tone colours and sound pictures meld voice and guitar into one instrument. Their repertory goes beyond doctrines: with a programme comprising their own compositions, well-known jazz standards, more recent popular songs and traditional Albanian chansons, we are abducted by Turku and Goodman, who take us to unusual sound worlds of great intensity, with a whole lot of surprises on hold. Towering above everything is Goodman’s heady melange of romantic song spiked with blues and jazz elements – deeply rooted in the music history of America. The guitarist experiments on all stylistic levels, often working in virtuoso flageoletts, while Fjoralba Turku’s vocals are now soft, now powerful and demanding, dissolving in the sounds of the guitar, entirely in the tradition of song phenomenology – a perfect integration of sound colours and emotions. The song texts transport pictures of simple strength as well as complexity, charged with melancholy or with ecstacy, between rough woodcuts and finest filigree. This album is a gem, far more than only a sum of its parts, of guitar, loops, mandocello, voice and lyrics. Despite the reminiscences of hillbilly and of jazz standards, At The Middle gives off a certain scent of progrssiveness, going against the grain of the mainstream and of remakes, against the flow of the present pervasive artistic fog, that often leaves us smothered in its clouds of trendy, musicological non-statement. But we can, in the end, bypass it and step out and back-into-the-future – paradoxically, with a backward glance at the table set before us – richly laden with the traditions of the 20th century. At the Middle is a must-have! Dig it!

Liner Notes

​The evolving of Mal Waldron's universe Twenty years ago I first came across Mal Waldron. It happened in what then was a typical South German jazz club. The "club" was a medieval cave frugally fitted with beer garden benches and a small bandstand dominated by a worn out upright piano. I had come to see and hear the band of a man whose name I was only vaguely familiar with. Held up by a traffic jam on the motorway, the Mal Waldron Quartet started its first set about two hours late. Apart from Mal there was Christian Burchard on vibes, a bass player and a drummer. When the music finally rang out, I was immediately spellbound; I had not been prepared for the unfolding beauty of these sounds. The tunes radiated warmth, and yet there were inflections of distant turmoil overcome. The probing rotary motion of the piano lines, accentuated by pedal points, made the music progress like circles ol different vectors outlining a universe where rhythm, tension and release were paramount, a universe held together by a gravitation centre whose strength emanated from stoicism and dignity. The next day I started looking for records, and because I couldn't find recent material, I discovered his famous recordings with Eric Dolphy and Booker Little at The Five Spot, and the wonderful album The Quest with its amazing range of great compositions by the leader Mal Waldron. But why were there no recordings documenting Mal Waldron's new approach with its condensed shorthand of circular and percussive motifs and the effective use of his power of repetition? Some people must have asked themselves the same question; within two years the EMC and Enja labels both took up production with up-to-date trio recordings by Mal. Other companies followed up in the years to come, and for some time it almost seemed as if there was some overexposure of Mal. But there was always something new to discover in the evolving Waldronian universe. There were the moving solo perlormances and the recordings of Mal leading quintets and sextets in which tonal and free approaches were f7used into fascinating synthesises; there were the duos with Steve Lacy, and finally the recordings he made with American bands during his now regular visits to the United States, which documented Mal's reworking of the traditions of modern jazz. For all those who didn't know yet, it became apparent that Mal was much more than just a very individual piano player. His stature as a first rate accompanist could no longer be denied. Live and on record, the way he played just to the point behind the horn players, supporting them and assigning them the apt places in the universe of his own music, was an ever thrilling experience. Now almost twenty years after the creation of ECM and Enja, a new label has again been inaugurated by a Mal Waldron recording. The men behind it are Horst Weber, co-founder of Enja and renowned jazz author, and Peter Wiessmueller who has written a book on Miles Davis. Peter is fascinated by the way Mal's presence inspires such spiritual strength to a band that it becomes more than just the sum of its individual members; "Mal is a musical shaman, a sorcerer comparable to Miles." Incidentally, Mal is a great Davis fan - and Sorcerer is one of Miles' records that he likes best. The new label's name is somewhat reminiscent of a recent Miles Davis production, though it is meant as a reference -as is the Davis album of the same name - to the South Africa freedom fighter Bishop Tutu. 0n this new inaugural record the whole of Mal Waldron's art is represented. The contemporary composer, pianist and bandleader, with all the qualities that we have learnt to love in his work over these last twenty years - it is all there: the ebullient percussive power in Dancing On The Flames and Blood and Guts, the mature lyricism in Litlle One, the brilliant playfulness in A Bow To The Classics, the open, free approach in From Little Acorns; and then there is Soul Mates, an outstanding duo track with the wonderful Jim Pepper. lt is a masterpiece of ballad composition and interpretation - and a model of horn/piano duo playing. Everybody in the studio was deeply moved by this moment of sheer beauty - it was out of respect for his partner that Mal decided on this particular title for63 the tune. But not only the collaboration with Jim Pepper was marked by deep mutual respect. This very same feeling also characterized the rapport between Mal, John Betsch and Ed Schuller. Mal comments, "lt was a great pleasure to play with Ed, he is such a wonderful bass player; and John, he is one of the most rhythmically inventive of all my drummers." No small compliment, considering the men Mal has played with. As l said earlier, in a way this record sums up Mal Waldron's achievements of the last two decades, but it is still a far cry from being self-indulgent or self-satisfied. The whole impetus of the music points beyond. Mal stays true to this statement he made in 1972. " I always play with my own feelings, but a musician has to change, otherwise he dies. I intend to to keep changing, until the day I die. " Ulm, December 1987 Thomas Fitterling (with linguistic help from Bill Elgart) Author of "Thelonious Monk" / Oreos Verlag Contributor to Stereoplay, Jazzpodium and Rondo Magazin Peter Wießmüller / Producers Notes: I should mention that Thomas Fittlerling (†), a specialist on Mal Waldron's unique career, was present at the recording sessions at Trixi Studio – he came especially all the way from Ulm to Munich... The linernotes above were written by him for the LP-release. On this Compact Disc you will find three more titles in quartet line-up: Thelonious Monk's Blue Monk, Miles Davis' Solar (both titles show Jim Pepper's very strong talents as a melodic improviser); and another original composition of Mal Waldron's, Golden Golson, which was dedicated to Benny Golson, who was a wellknown saxophonist and composer on the New York Jazz scene in the late fifties and very often performed in Mal's groups at the famous Jazzclubs, Five Spot and Village Vanguard.

Photos from the production

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