Jazz CD Reviews

Tom Teasley – All the World’s a Stage – T&T Music

Percussionist Tom Teasley proves there is a stage for all of the world’s percussion.

Published on October 29, 2012

Tom Teasley – All the World’s a Stage – T&T Music

Tom Teasley – All the World’s a Stage – T&T Music TT0312, 41:00 ***1/2:

(Tom Teasley – co-engineer, aquasonic, balafon, djembe, bass drum, pandeiro, cajón, hi hat-shekere, shakers, vocal percussion, Roland HandSonic, wind, lap style bodhrán, alto melodica, doumbek, cymbals, Korg Wave Drum, marimba, riqq, didgi-harp, bass marimba, bass melodica, MalletKAT, soprano melodica, spring drum, hang drum, alto melodica, bansari whistle, Yamaha Motif)

Percussionist Tom Teasley takes the concept of a one-man band to a unique level on his eighth album as a leader, All the World’s a Stage. Over the course of 41 minutes and nine tracks, Teasley overdubs a large collection of traditional, ethnic, digital and self-created percussion instruments to produce a simulated percussion ensemble. Teasley uses both acoustic and electronic instruments to craft a multi-cultural track list which showcases Teasley’s varied influences, from Middle Eastern tonalities to those from India, and from African inspirations to American jazz. Teasley’s pan-global approach is always filtered through his own viewpoint and perspective, which provides a personable fusion.

Although there is no specific thematic unit which runs through the material, on most pieces Teasley utilizes one of four types of melodica (which has a musical keyboard on top and is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece attached to the instrument’s side), which helps provide a comprehensive sound which unifies Teasley’s music. Rhythm is paramount. Each cut has a dance-delineated declination. This can be experienced from the outset on the South Indian-oriented “Oresteia Furies Dance,” where Teasley plays the balafon (an African wooden percussion instrument related to the xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel and the vibraphone: sound is formed by hitting tuned keys with padded sticks), adds vocal percussion effects, and manipulates both the Roland HandSonic (a multi-pad, midi-based, hand-drum machine) and his self-produced Aquasonic (which has a metal base filled with water, and spokes of differing length bowed with a cello bow). “Fuska and Varona” (the title comes from two theatrical characters) has a similar arrangement and quality, where electronic and traditional percussive elements (including both bass and soprano melodica and cymbals) also commingle. Another distinctive percussive tool is heard here, the midi-controlled MalletKAT, which Teasley operates to layer in other percussive timbres.

Teasley constructs a sense of dramatic narrative on some cuts, which draw on Teasley’s award-winning theatrical/stage work. During the lightly melancholic “Orestes’ Lament,” Teasley employs an alto melodica, a spring drum, a djembe (a rope-tuned, skin-covered goblet drum played with bare hands, associated with Mali in West Africa) and other percussive implements, to sculpt a metrical footing. A Korg Wave Drum allows Teasley to integrate an underlying contemporary coloring. There is a fauna foundation on the minimalist “Return of the Green Bird,” where Teasley incorporates a Bansari whistle (which has a flute-ish characteristic), which echoes the sound of tropical birds; the lap style bodhrán (an Irish frame drum) and the riqq (an Arabian tambourine), thus fashioning one of the album’s more notable hybrid compositions. There is a different sort of story-like stratagem to “Nights Over Baghdad,” inspired by Teasley’s U.S. Dept. of State visit to Iraq and other nearby areas. While Teasley performs on a sweet soprano melodica (the primary instrument which carries the main theme and melody), he supplements the number with the riqq, a doumbek (a hand drum with a crisp, bass resonance), the MalletKAT and a cajón (a Peruvian, box-shaped wooden drum). Teasley closes with two artful tracks. “Rise Up” contains Asiatic flickers via Teasley’s koto-like allusions, derived from the MalletKAT, as well as a Middle Eastern refrain which comes from the riqq. Teasley’s alluring melody is fed through an alto melodica. Synthesized dynamics sift through the brief “Setzuan Blues,” which marries an Asian pattern with a blues treatment. It seems as if there are fewer and fewer all-percussion projects available, particularly any which have the melodic flair shown on All the World’s a Stage, so Tom Teasley’s continuing inventiveness in the sphere of percussion composition is a good sign that such endeavors can be released and find a home with listeners who can appreciate such ventures.

TrackList: Oresteia Furies Dance; Rumba for Rama; The Apple Song; Nights Over Baghdad; Orestes’ Lament; Fuska and Varuna; Return of the Green Bird; Rise Up; Setzuan Blues.

—Doug Simpson

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