Marilyn Crispell, Richard Nunns, Jeff Henderson: This Appearing World (Rattle)

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Crispell, Nunns, Henderson: Missed Children
Marilyn Crispell, Richard Nunns, Jeff Henderson: This Appearing World (Rattle)

These days it's not uncommon to see a Japanese restaurant offering “tapas”, people to speak of pan- Pacific fusion food (Japan-meets-Polynesia-meets-California?) or for one of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney to have a chef trained in New Zealand. (True, Lucio's in Paddington).

But if music be the food of love then let's talk about pan-Pacific fusion sounds where there are also no boundaries as we once knew them.

Today – when many people work in the margins between pop, rock, classic and jazz, when “alternative rock” has no meaning at all and “alt.country” has long since ceased to be a useful definition, there is still music which defies categories and remains defiantly “alt” by virtue of its odd fusions.

The 20-year old Rattle label out of Auckland has been consistently delivering music from the margins which enjoy a crossover audience (among its first releases were From Scratch and the guitar ensemble Gitbox Rebellion) and rather than drawing to the centre it has pushed further outwards.

These 13 short, free improvisations – recorded when US pianist Crispell was in New Zealand in 2008 – exist on the periphery of free jazz but, courtesy of Nunns' playing of traditional Maori instrument also suggest more ambient or impressionist soundscapes.

Henderson's woody reeds and gutsy saxes also ground this in an earthy and sometimes visceral place.

The aptly named Snow Grind evokes a slightly menacing woodland where snow comes up the top of the tyres; the barely-there Rumi Nation possesses a strange, natural world stillness and recalls Crispell's excellent One Dark Night I Left My House (a best of Elsewhere 2010 selection); Here Seas Peak is an eerily disembodied and almost ambient piece where Nunns and Henderson work off each other; Meat Ox opens with the sound of a conch call which seems to disappear into an echoing chasm of the piano before the brusque tone of scraping saxophone adds a terrifying quality . . .

The album comes with a 41 minute DVD of the performance and a 12 minute interview (directed and produced by Keith Hill an beautifully shot by Guy Quartermain and Tim Gummer)

Interestingly this album of improvised music doesn't appear on the Rattle Jazz imprint although two of the players may fairly be said to occupy that world.

But given the refined arthouse nature of its contents, its worldliness and other-worldiness, it is best let sit outside genre and expectation.

Perhaps demanding for some, but the DVD takes you right into the serious creative process and that feeling of being in the moment of creativity.

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