Steve Tibbetts – Natural Causes – ECM 6025 270 2164 5, 44:02 [6/15/10] ****:
(Steve Tibbetts – guitars, piano, kalimba, bouzouki; Marc Anderson – percussion, steel drums, gongs)
The clichés have already been printed about Steve Tibbetts and his guitar-playing abilities. But, if he had 12 fingers to play the 12-string guitar on Natural Causes, my bets are that he would be a household name by now. The Minneapolis native takes it to the next level with each album released. Exploring every sound the guitar can produce, Tibbetts infuses traditional Indian music with his own jazz styling. Mellow isn’t a chill enough word to express Natural Causes‘ affect on the listener. It’s meditative, seductive, elusive and many other ive’s… It’s simply another great Tibbetts release.
But maybe it’s just not that simple. There are only two people performing here. Marc Anderson on percussion is subtle to say the least. Marc lulls behind Steve in an almost shy way on the entire album. Natural Causes comes off more as a world music album than a jazz album. Unlike many albums in the past, the focus here is clear. An Indian-infused 12 tracks, 12 strings-picking masterpiece. In the traditional Indian style where a song can take up to 2 hours to perform, Tibbetts performs the events from 83 seconds to six and a half minutes.
The shorter tracks, less than two minutes, are the most compelling to me. They are opaque and involved and include Sitavana, Isvaravana, Kili-Ki Drok and Kuladzokpa. Another favorite however is the second track on the album, Padre- Yaga, a perfect time for reflection of self. The breaks and uneven tempo of the track are like a 30 minute Indian talas condensed to just over 6.
It’s also what didn’t make the album that will peak some interest here. A cover of Hendrix’s Villanova Junction, clips are easily available online, was cut at the last minute. I’m not sure where it would have fit in on the album anyway.
5. Sangchen Rolpa
10. Kili-Ki Drok
— Paul Pelon IV