Bobby Avey – Authority Melts From Me
(Whirlwind Recordings. WR4650. CD Review by Eric Ford)
This is a very unusual CD. Listened to without any knowledge of what inspired the music, it’s a dark, seething and tangled morass for most of the roughly 54 minutes of this suite. (There are 3 long pieces interspersed by a 3-minute piano solo and a 3-minute drum solo).
The players – pianist / composer – and 2011 Thelonious Monk Competition-winner – Bobby Avey, Jordan Perlson on drums, bassist Thomson Kneeland and established heavyweights Miguel Zenon on alto sax and guitarist Ben Monder – all do a great job with both the knotty written material and in improvising over the extremely gnarled rhythmic settings of each section.
Monder’s effects pedals help you to “travel without moving”, often into dark, dark places. There’s not much truly “free” blowing but a lot of the written rhythmic vamps are so oblique and so well-embellished by Perlson and Kneeland that they sound almost free. However they must have invested a lot of time with such challenging material, individually and collectively, to be able to play it so loosely and interactively and to have come up (especially Perlson and Monder) with so many textural gradations to enhance the progress of each section.
So everyone involved “got with the program”, but what’s it all about? If you’d rather listen to the album without knowing, stop reading now! Avey’s excellent liner notes reveal that the tortured rhythms, as well as general concepts for the pieces, are transcribed from Vodou drumming rituals he attended in Haiti in January 2012. (As you may know, the idea of a Vodou ceremony is to gain access to the parallel world of the souls of the dead). This is clearly a deep and rich resource, within and beyond music, given that these rituals fuelled by drumming have been practised in some communities on the island for centuries.
But that’s not all. Avey catalogues the grim history of Haiti during the two centuries since it ceased to be a French colony, and whilst that and the current parlous state in which most Haitians find themselves is appalling enough, less well-known but equally appalling is the role of the U.S.A., meddling despicably in Haiti’s internal affairs even in the last decade. Avey says: “I hope my music will lead to greater understanding and awareness of Haiti among the American people and ultimately play some small role in inspiring thoughtful action to turn the tide of the relationship between the two countries.” We can all help Avey in this noble and altruistic endeavour by buying his CD and talking about the issues raised in his liner notes.