Posts Tagged ‘Casey Golden’

Too many guitar and piano albums suffer from imbalance – the imbalance of a great big 88-key concert grand bullying a little 6-string guitar into submission. Tony Barnard‘s remarkable 21-string harp guitar (together with pianist Casey Golden‘s sensitivity to register) return a rare and unique balance to their their current collaboration, Inventions.

Inventions1

Across 16 tracks (nine from Barnard, seven from Golden) the duo mesh beautifully – often it is hard to tell where the Steinway ends and the Sedgwick (or Emerald Synergy) guitar begins. Which is as is should be.

Except of course when they excitingly play against or across each other: Barnard’s steel strings biting into the piano chords or Golden soloing brightly and lightly over the guitar rhythms, like rain falling across hills (Golden’s solo on “First Place” is a special case in point: its fleeting dissonances nipping and tugging against the driving guitar). Inventions2

The range of tunes here allows full invention from both – the rustic country ramble of opener ‘Erin’s Song’, the Bach-like ‘Invisible’ (a range of approaches across four versions I,II, II and IV), the impressionistic ‘Where the Clouds Go’ (which shows the depth of the harp guitar).

The mood indigo minor ‘Erika’s Song’ is a gorgeous theme that draws a measured and considered solo from Golden. ‘Rhapsodic’ brings to mind Keith Jarrett’s more meditative pieces, painting watercolour pictures on the wind.

Inventions grows in enjoyment on each listen – as anything of this sophistication and creativity does. I have long enjoyed each of these artists – uncle and nephew from Australian jazz royalty, the Barnard clan – separately, so it is an event to hear them together. I truly hope there is more to come.

 

Inventions is available from November 17.

Tony Barnard’s website is https://barnardmusic.com

Casey Golden’s website is http://www.caseygolden.com.au

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In the crystalline world of Casey Golden‘s music, evolution has been at work, as it inevitably must in any viable ecosystem.

The new work, an EP made of the four-part Miniature has built on Golden’s previous work, markedly 2105’s Outliers, which consolidated the Trio’s sound, vision and mission statement brilliantly. (Check also Outliers’ little sister album Live at Bennett’s Lane).

Golden Trio Miniature 2

Everything good and great about the Trio is still there. Golden’s compositions still blur beautifully between ensemble and improvisation, a vision virtually impossible to achieve without more than a touch of telepathy and players as empathic and creative as Ed Rodrigues on drums and bassist Bill Williams. The writing has not lost its nods to minimalism, Prog rock, post-rock and European classical flavours (contrapuntal bebop anyone?).

It sounds odd, and yet one of the most attractive attributes of Golden’s music is its un-jazzness. And the new work takes this further into new timbres.

Golden Trio Miniature 1

Miniature cover art by Glenn Smith

Miniature brings in the new sounds of synth and guitar (courtesy of guest Daniel Walsh). They are used sparingly and to great effect – the ‘classic/classical’ spine of the band’s piano trio character is not bruised at all, just gently shaded here, lit with a little rose or green there.

Opening movement of the Miniature suite – ‘I’ – has guitar over its tricksy timing, rising and falling  and oddly bringing to mind ‘acoustic electronica’. Its synth coda does not jar at all, but seems to be as logical as anything else in this movement.

‘II’ begins with an echo of one of the themes heard intertwining through the suite, before a completely absorbing (how rare they are) Bill Williams bass solo.

The third movement is ‘Interlude’. It takes another tack on timbre – the Bach-like piano lines sound dried-out, as if coming from a phone recording. This moves into a watery synth passage – as if listened to under water. The effect is magical – as if this ‘Interlude’ between the first two and the final movements has truly suspended time.

‘III’, the final movement of  Miniature has all the drama of a finale – except that drama is shaped through the lens of Golden’s compositional vision: so it has twists, turns, Zawinul-like suggestions of melody and then bursts of epic melody. The epic and the miniature, side by side, often one seen through the mirror of the other.

This is what sets Golden’s music apart from anything I can think of today. In my earlier review of Outliers I wrote “It is rare that a musical vision is so complete, and completely of its own world.” We are now seeing that world evolve – long may it do so.

 

Published June 2016 on australianjazz.net

Like Casey Golden’s music, the new album Live at Bennett’s Lane is built on an internal logic that is almost, but not quite, elegantly symmetrical.

The companion piece to his Trio’s recent studio album – Outliers – Live at Bennett’s Lane is made up of three pieces, each with an ‘Intro’ by one member of the band, and a fourth piece on its own, sans ‘Intro’.

Like Outliers, the new album sports a spacey, intergalactic cover by Marvel Comics’ Ron Frenz. In my review for australianjazz.net of Outliers I said of Golden’s music that, like Frenz’ graphic vision, it appears to come from another world. There is the coolness and openness of outer space in this music. There is also an alienness about his compositions and his approach to improvisation that is at once intriguing and endlessly surprising.

golden4As cool and spaced-out as Outliers was, this new live album is noticeably more earthbound and funky (though it is looking up at the stars). The Outlier track ‘Paralysed’ (after a lovely darkling solo piano intro from Golden) is tougher here than the studio version with the Trio conversing heatedly during the piano solo.

‘When The Talking Stops’ (Golden’s titles are mostly these fragmented opacities which rarely colour or inform the actual tune – very cool) is bright, built from light and shade; the flow of intricacies across the solos is dazzling. Equally with opener ‘The 16th Hour’, the Trio works across the top of a compositional mesh, letting the music drop through or bounce above.

Drummer Ed Rodrigues’ ‘Intro’ to ‘The 16th Hour’ builds smartly and richly from hinting brushes to full kit colours. His playing, together with bassist, Bill Williams (whose beautifully textured ‘Intro’ to closer ‘Clouded’ is a high point), is a big part of the Trio’s appeal.

This is the band which, after his first album, 2010’s Clarity, Golden decided to let gestate for over five years. All too rarely do Australian jazz groups hold the same personnel, but when they do – like the Necks – they are a treasure.golden3a

The millions (probably billions by now) who read my jazz reviews are probably quite sick of my mantra regarding recorded jazz: it makes sense that all jazz should be recorded – if recorded at all – live. It is music of the moment by its nature, after all.

This album bears out my view – the depth of playing is richer, the highs are higher, the lows are lower. It has that delicious and delirious quality that makes us come back to jazz for more of the same good stuff. The presence of an appreciative and deeply listening audience cannot help but push great players to new heights.

And, like life, there are no second takes.

 

Published April 2015 on australianjazz.net

In many ways, the piano trio is to Jazz what drawing is to Art. It is the basic frame upon which much of the bigger colourful stuff is hung. It is almost graphic in its lines and cross-hatchings, yet capable of telling the full story with the simplest of means – a small drum set, an acoustic bass and one of the largest of the orchestra’s percussion instruments, the piano.

golden1So it is fitting on a number of levels that pianist/composer Casey Golden’s new Trio album, Outliers, sports a graphic cover drawn in black-and-white by none other than one of Marvel Comics’ finest, Ron Frenz. It is a spacey solarscape that one expects, say, Doctor Strange to zip through on one of his missions to other dimensions.

Much of the music on Outliers seems from another world, too (the word outlier comes from statistical mathematics and is “an observation point that is distant from other observations”). Golden’s compositions roll out based upon their own logic – like Monk or, closer to home, the writing of Mike Nock – a logic that finds its own balance between flow and stop, cluster and spread, tight and open.

Texture seems to take equal weight to melody and rhythm. Harmony is subservient to texture – the woven lines of album opener, the wittily titled ‘Flatpack Empire’, the repeated arpeggios of ‘Paralysis’ as well as that track’s faux-montuno under Ed Rodrigues’ questing drum monologue. The 49 second vignette, ‘Uncovered’ is almost Japanese in its linear economy.

It all seems so perfectly-formed and confidently joyful ­– but this music and this band is no overnite sensation. Both compositions and band have been gestating for almost five years since Golden’s previous recording.

Now, with Rodrigues and bassist Bill Williams, Golden has found a band that not only obviously in synch with his unique compositional approach but one that can breath together during the blowing sections. Check the fleet ensemble sections of ‘Us or Them?’ or the conversational banter and chat of the group soloing on ‘Recluse’. golden 2

One of the delights of Outliers is the blurring of head and improvisation – all merges into a cool yet sunlit miasma of music: total integration, as is with the three instruments, as is with the elements of Golden’s writing, also extends out to wrap all in together, solos, heads, all of it. It is rare that a musical vision is so complete, and completely of its own world.

It is doubly rare that such a refined and rounded-out vision comes from one so young. Casey Golden has already been one to watch for several years – Outliers vindicates our faith and makes me, for one, hungry for more from this unique ensemble.

Published February 2015 on australianjazz.net