Bob Gluck and Tani Tabbal – At This Time: Duets – Ictus 

Bob Gluck and Tani Tabbal – At This Time: Duets [TrackList follows] – Ictus CD181, 49:51 [10/15/17] ****:

A different kind of duet album.

(Bob Gluck – Yamaha acoustic piano, Roli Seaboard Grand, Keith McMillan QueNexus, Yamaha P60, Apogee Quartet audio interface, Ableton Live & Lemur iPad interface, Madrona Labs Aalto synthesizer, Kontakt software sampler; Tani Tabbal – drums)

There’s a context of revolution and evolution on keyboardist Bob Gluck and drummer Tani Tabbal’s aptly-named At This Time: Duets. The 49-minute, nine-track CD is tellingly described as “an artistic reflection on the political struggles of our time.” The heart of the album belongs to “El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido (The People United Will Never Be Defeated),” an anthem of the Chilean revolution, particularly against the U.S.-backed Pinochet regime. There is also material which has themes of hope as well as despondency, such as the title track, “Resolve” and “Persistence.” The evolutionary aspects ride through several electronic compositions which are abstract and take jazz improvisation to new levels of reconstruction. The theme of evolution also appears on some cuts which come from Miles Davis’ ‘Lost’ Quintet of 1968-1970, so-called since the group never recorded in the studio and live tapings were issued much later. These tunes include Wayne Shorter’s “Sanctuary” and one of Davis’ favorite covers, Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s “I Fall in Love Too Easily.” Both numbers connote Davis’ evolution as band leader and performer.

At This Time: Duets may be off-putting for some listeners. That’s because Gluck and Tabbal alternate between traditional jazz arrangements and pieces which focus on purely electronic keyboard elements. That means this is a widely varied CD that is explorative and conventional. Gluck commences with a beautiful solo piano rendition of “I Fall in Love Too Easily” which presents his superb acoustic piano approach. Later in the program there is a briefer duet version which has a rhythmic groove highlighted by Tabbal’s excellent application of toms and bass drum, where Tabbal hints at a bass line and amplifies the piano’s pulsating lines. The first, lengthier adaptation of “El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido” is uplifting and somber. Tabbal produces nuanced percussion on his brushed cymbals and lightly tapped snare, while Gluck performs a wistful melody which gets to the tune’s elegiac emotional core. As the music progresses, Tabbal and Gluck occasionally include dissonant moments which mirror the anger and passion underlying the anthem. The CD concludes with a slightly shorter interpretation of “El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido” which is somewhat more portentous and stark. The melody is moodier and more questioning, and eventually elevates with a feeling of thoughtful confidence reflecting the idea that courage can indeed change the future. Another CD high spot is the duet arrangement of Shorter’s “Sanctuary.” Most Davis fans probably know this from Davis’ 1970 LP Bitches Brew. Gluck and Tabbal, however, seem influenced by the acoustic live documentation heard on the Davis compilation Circle in the Round. That said, Gluck and Tabbal don’t make this akin to what Davis/Shorter did. They dispense with melody and concentrate on harmonics to sculpt a deconstruction of the music, with transformed scales and transmuted aggressiveness.

On the auditory flip side are electro-jazz pieces such as “Resolve,” where Gluck shifts to synth and other digital sound-shapers. “Resolve” contains sparse, ultramodern swishes and reverberations which get noisy at times, analogous to Wendy Carlos’ soundtrack work (think 1980’s The Shining) while Tabbal adds splattering cymbals and liquid-leaning percussion. Gluck employs a repeating motif on a bass-laden synth, while Tabbal plays rhythmically jumpy percussion. “Premonition” emerges more like a mix of rock and avant-garde than typical jazz. One could imagine this going over well at a noise fest rather than a jazz club. The six-minute “Lest It Fade” has an eerie, ambient atmosphere, and an Asian tone due to Tabbal’s blocks of percussive effects (his rolling percussion often recalls Japanese taiko) and Gluck’s koto-like, digital string manipulations. During “Persistence” Gluck crafts shadowy sustains and unfolding textures on his digital keyboards, while Tabbal intensifies things with his heavy cymbal rolls. “Persistence” has a nearly SF sonic manifestation which conjures film soundtracks such as Michel Colombier’s Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) or Gil Mellé’s The Andromeda Strain (1971). At This Time: Duets is an iconoclastic effort, to say the least. The interchanging material which goes from acoustic to electronic may be too much oscillating for some listeners. The all-electronic segments might not benefit those who prefer the acoustic pieces and vice versa. Pay attention closely to everything, though, and it becomes obvious Gluck and Tabbal are sharing a multi-layered outing which has continuity, albeit not readily discerned.

TrackList: 
I Fall in Love Too Easily, solo
Resolve
Sanctuary
Premonition
El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido (The People United Will Never Be Defeated)
Lest It Fade Away
I Fall in Love Too Easily, duet
Persistence
El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido (The People United Will Never Be Defeated)

—Doug Simpson

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