It would appear anything I could possibly say would border on pointless but occasionally I do get a little wood on the ball. Relativity is the follow up to the critically acclaimed Americanvas which is the sonic interpretation of work by American artists of the 20th century. Relativity is the conceptualized interpretation of one of the most eclectic of artists of the century, M.C. Escher.
For the uninitiated, the works of Escher are highly cerebral in nature creating or reminding us of the world around us and the impact on his own intellect and imagination. Gilman decided to take on the work of Escher in an attempt to make that musical leap of faith and at the same time build that sonic bridge of connectivity between the two art forms while building his own imaginary universe. To portray the complexities of the work of Escher is certainly a daunting task but in doing so the possibly untapped potential of Gilman seems to spring forth from an even deeper artist soul than Gilman may have been aware of. Naturally taste is subjective but pushing the work of Brubeck or Stevie Wonder as had been done in previous works is something entirely different than a musical adaptation of polyhedrons, infinite drawings and impossible structures into an alternate universe as is the case with Relativity.
A great deal of Escher's work had a distinct cleverness yet at times a prevailing dark synergy of numeric patterns which seems to be the epicenter of Gillman's work. Smaller and Smaller is a 1956 wood engraving represents an infinite world in an enclosed plane in which twelve reptiles reptiles are repeated in an ever shrinking four leaf clover pattern or shape thus the idea of the twelve tone row representing the reptiles. Without leaping off into the technical abysses without a parachute, the musical patterns shrink in mathematical proportion as does Escher's work. The 1961 lithograph Waterfall is the image in which water from the base of a cascade appears to run downhill before reaching the top. Escher's creation of a visual paradox is transformed by Gillman by using a melody and an imitative counter melody that descends, while its harmonic movement pushes infinitely upward creating this most unique dynamic tension. The compositions "Snow" is a recreation of the 1936 lithograph that is a most life like depiction of a solitary cabin in a distant winter timberland. Gillman does a masterful job of capturing the subtle nuances of such minute detail such as the creaking of low dried out branches thanks to the weight of the snow by the use of the bass clarinet.
One need not be familiar with the work of Escher or even Gillman to appreciate this hybridization of two art forms. The most amazing aspect of this work is that Gillman leaves us with a more open ended possibility of interpretation for work that is so inherently cerebral in nature yet wildly accessible.
From a compositional point of view, Gillman is a master at his craft but sometimes the simplest words are the best if in this case perhaps the most accurate, "Joe Gillman is certainly one of the greatest pianists I've ever heard." - Dave Brubeck.
Tracks: Three Spheres; Waterfall; Three Worlds; Smaller and Smaller; Covered Alley; Encounter; Snow; Day And Night: Sky And Water; Dewdrop; Ascending and Descending.
Personnel: Joe Gillman: piano & rhodes, electric piano; Nick Frenay: trumpet & flugelhorn; Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: tenor saxophone & bass clarinet; Zach Brown: bass; Corey Fonville: drums.