CD Review: Moss Project – What Do You See When You Close Your Eyes?

Moss Project – What Do You See When You Close Your Eyes?
(Babel Label BDV13114. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)

Moss Freed’sWhat Do You See When You Close Your Eyes?’ was launched earlier this year, but only recently has this album-as-book fallen into my hands. I find it a recording of stunning creativity and originality.

The format is a hardbound book containing not only the CD, but also the stories and poems of six eminent writers who were invited by guitarist and composer Freed to create their literary interpretations of the already-conceived and recorded tracks.

Freed invites the listener to choose their own route in – music first, words first, music and words together… or “just see where your own imagination takes you…”. As a musician, I couldn’t help but hit the Play button to understand the structure of the music and relive some of the sounds I’d originally heard at the Manchester Jazz Festival. But I was soon drawn to the written words of Naomi AldermanColum McCannJames MillerLawrence NorfolkJoe Dunthorne and Hanan al-Shaykh. It would be so easy to reveal the impact I found in these stories and poems, but that would deny you, the reader, that same first-time discovery – but, suffice to say, the combined effect of music and writings was unexpectedly rewarding.

Moss Freed is a transcendent musician, intelligently and skilfully coaxing an abundance of techniques and timbres from his guitar, and who (in my view) is comparable to legendary Seventies pioneers such as John McLaughlin and John Etheridge. Sharing the album credits are Ruth Goller (bass, backing vocals), Alice Zawadzki (violin, vocals) and Marek Dorcik (drums), as well as man-of-the-moment Shabaka Hutchings (bass clarinet, tenor saxophone).

Alice Zawadzki offers a particularly distinctive pairing of voice and violin, her spritely scat vocals in The Bubble matching Freed’s melodic lead before breaking into soulful unrestraint. The beauty (or perhaps, initially, melancholy) of Anniversary is sensitively felt, Hutchings’ bass clarinet and Zawadzki’s violin sharing the moment, Freed supporting with remarkable chordal detail. The title track is a triumph, its strong guitar, violin and vocal combination against Ruth Goller’s hard electric bassline and the solid drums of Marek Dorcik providing a fabulous flashback to the era of Mahavishnu and Return To Forever. Brief and agitated, Caravans (with Lawrence Norfolk’s tale of white, wheeled boxes and – I hazard a guess – Rollright Stones) precedes another retro-imbued funk gem, Freud and Jung Ride the Tunnel of Love, Shabaka dazzling, especially on tenor sax; and Freed’s compositional programming and guitar execution is exemplary, with so much to entertain. The Angel glides and whispers so sublimely – and, to offer another hint of the musical/literary energy, Hanan al-Shaykh’s writing provides equally disturbing and calming illumination to the artistry of Freed’s composition. Intruiged?

The ingenuity of Moss Freed’s jazz/rock approach, in itself, makes for a truly outstanding album – but the transformative beauty which he felt compelled to explore in linking the imaginings of others to his music realises a production like no other… and I am so thrilled to have finally discovered it.

As part of EFG London Jazz Festival, ’What Do You See When You Close Your Eyes?’ will be performed live at The Forge, London, this Thursday, 21 November 2013 at 8.00pm.

More information and tickets HERE

Categories: miscellaneous

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