Chamber jazz may well be one of the fastest growing hybrid trends in jazz today. Creative improvisation form and function meeting what would be classic instrumentation of chamber music for music that is truly eclectic and finally gives the often used tag of "organic" proper context.
A Gambler's Hand from Sean Noonan is an incredibly imaginative release comprised of a suite of pieces for an occasionally amplified string quartet and drums. While these pieces are primarily previously composed works they do contain improvisational sections with inspiration draw from the great quartets from Beethoven and Bartok in particular. Toss is Noonan's development of lyrical percussion and drum work and you have a amazing cohesion of melodic that fuses the jazz and classical sensibilities together but in diverse setting. A conceptual work of imagination where the music is based on an original narrative from Noonan about an obsessive gambler who winds up living inside his wall. The music is to parallel the moods and liminal psychic states of the first person narrator. The story actually had real life roots from a next door neighbor that Noonan could occasionally hear pounding on his wall and the link of communication was drawn from Noonan's drumming. Having lived next door to a drummer and memories of pounding on my wall were of a totally different nature, I found the music irony of his narrative humorous. While Noonan's approach was to expand concepts of minimalist theatre and absurd minimalism, this folklore turned into a highly evolved artistic triumph of personal expression.
This release leaves the exact narrative up to the listener to seek out in the music or perhaps not. The dynamic tension of the title track "A Gambler's Hand" opens with the quartet creating the perfect air of suspense and mystery. Loneliness and longing are subtle emotive qualities in the music. Sonic drama for the theatre of the mind. "Lully" while certainly minimalist in presentation contains a spatial expansive quality with the percussive articulation of theoretical life trapped in a wall of one's own making. The delightful thing concerning A Gambler's Hand is that by becoming a cerebral blank slate one can take the basic premise of the story and rewrite the context in a myriad of forms with each subsequent listen. "I Feel The Clouds." A new day dawning, hopeful yet a wistful melancholy of the human spirit looking to break free.
An amazing release in the creative jazz/chamber music genre that incorporates theatre, jazz, and classical into a sonic brain wash for the mind. This is not the typical release but an experience. If one allows themselves the time and place to literally Be The Ball to borrow from the film Caddyshack and give credence to the storyline then the end results of this time spent can be amazing.
A dynamic and virtually flawless execution of art at an apex of creativity few can match.
Tracks: A Gambler's Hand; Caught In The Act; Lully; Banshee Dance; Thank You; Ghost Quarters; Triptych; I Feel The Clouds; Courage Unleashed; Monster Of Solitude.
Personnel: Sean Noonan: drum set, percussion, composer, conductor; Tom Swafford: violin; Patti Kilroy: violin; Leanne Darling: viola; David West: cello.