Two new releases due April 13!
The Wonder of Moondog’s Madrigal Music
It’s something of a mystery why Moondog, a.k.a. Louis Hardin, isn’t featured in the writings of Joseph Mitchell. The blind street musician and visionary, for decades standing in the corner of Sixth Avenue and 54th Street performing his own version of utopian free music, is the typical eccentric city character given life and story space in Mitchell’s portrait articles for the New Yorker magazine, collected in books like McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon, The Bottom of the Harbor and Joe Gould’s Secret. The special flow of Moondog´s music, played on homebuilt and hand-made instruments like the Trimba, the Yukh and the Tuji and combining this and that, Native American rhythms, march band melodies, jazz syncopations, city sounds like fog horns and the harsh rhythms of passing subway trains, hymns and European classical traditions, could be compared with other American visionaries and mavericks like Charles Ives, Gertrude Stein or Harry Partch. But the music has its own way of finding a place in the world. The tunes are constructed a bit like Mitchell’s sentences. They are often frank in character and sometimes rudimentary in appearance, but the parts are carefully put together according to classical canon and counterpoint principles, and when you analyze it the music is strangely precise.
The music is there, in the real world, in dialogue with everything that’s going on, and still it exists in a universe of its own, being in the same time old-fashioned and irregular, joyful and ecstatic. The most significant factor is the clarity of the sounds. You hear what’s going on, all the time, and the transparency of structure comes through most directly in the song canons composed by Moondog all through his life, over 300 in numbers. They are madrigals in the classical sense, polyphonic and archaic, building complex patterns out of simple melodic cells. Going around and around they create a feeling of continuous wonder and no one can say how old they are or where they emanate from. The canons make the elements, the earth and the air, the fire and the water communicate with us, and the music speaks directly, like the way people talk when they meet in street corners or speakeasies, or taking walks together through the cities and the forests. “Be a hobo and go with me, from Hoboken to the sea.”
Magnus Haglund Writer and critic, based in Gothenburg, Sweden
The Daniel Karlsson Trio
Five albums in, the Daniel Karlsson Trio’s sound has matured like a vintage wine and these tracks showcase the myriad musical aromas that define their sound.
The piano trio is one of the most commonplace of jazz formats: these compositions, however, are anything but. This group is expanding the horizons of what a trio can do. Daniel Karlsson’s keyboard is boundlessly creative. The group uses a bold tonal palette, effects and recording techniques to squeeze the maximum potential from their instruments. Drummer Fredrik Rundkvist and bassist Christian Spering are equal partners in creating a cornucopia of textures and rhythms that treat the listener to an emotional rollercoaster.
Karlsson is an alchemist. He creates intricate and profound musical statements from the simplest of ideas. A slight but infectious motif such as that opening The Last Tessoro effortlessly transforms into a broad, fractal landscape, but one in which the central hook is never lost from view. Likewise, A Man and His Umbrella is so buoyant and understated as the melody rolls along, you can’t help but enjoy it.
You’ll hear simplicity in tunes like Let Me Tell You One More Thing and Route 222, tracks in which every note has time to simply ‘be’, allowing the listener to luxuriate in pure, uncomplicated sound. Karlsson, Rundvist and Spering – craftsmen, all – know that what you leave out is often as important as what you put in.
But there are also more complex and up tempo offerings, such as the infectious swing of Salzburg or the power charge of Fusion For Fish, for which, incidentally, the piano riff sixty-two seconds in is some of the most exhilarating piano you’ll ever hear. The Daily Döner is an intense fairground ride of sounds suffused with intensely positive chord progressions and is simply great fun, while new track Colourful Grey provides a sweet cocktail of moods, simultaneously introspective and joyous, and catchy as hell.
This collection is a great way to discover the boundless creativity and dynamism the Daniel Karlsson Trio generates. Their music is soulful, life-affirming and tremendously rewarding. Enjoy.
Rob Mallows London Jazz News contributor; organiser, London Jazz Meetup