Mark Guiliana – the sound of listening
(Edition Records – EDN1210 Review by Graham Spry)
One small benefit of the unscheduled leisure time brought about by the lockdown was the opportunity musicians had to catch up with their reading. In the case of drummer Mark Guiliana this included the spiritual teachings of Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, the very title of his book Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise is enough to intrigue any musician. However, the sound of listening, the album that resulted from Guiliana’s reading, is no homage to John Cage but rather follows from Aldous Huxley’s famous observation that music is the next best thing to silence.
Guiliana’s first recording on Edition Records, as on most of his Jazz Quartet’s albums, features a quartet that consists of Chris Morrisey on bass, Shai Maestro on pianoand Jason Rigby on tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute. As on his own albums on ECM, Maestro is a pianist of great stature whose musical ambitions align well with Guiliana’s on this recording.
Guiliana is famously diverse in his set of musical styles, ranging from electronic experimentation in his BEAT MUSIC! project and in his collaboration with Brad Mehldau as the Mehliana duo, but on the whole the sound of listening sits firmly within the contemporary jazz tradition. This is demonstrated by the album’s opening track, a path to bliss, which is a relatively quiet track led by Shai Maestro’spianothat gradually builds up to a restful sense of contentment. The title track is probably the track which most leans towards Guiliana’s interest in other musical genres where drum programming, ampliceleste, mellotron and synthesisers create a tune that is somehow both sparse in rhythm and dense in instrumentation. Both these tunes push the rhythm forward from a deceptively simple motif: an approach also used by Morrisey’s bass on the most important question, by piano and bass on a way of looking, and by Guiliana’s synthesiser on the courage to be free.
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The quartet is given a good opportunity to swing as one on our essential nature and under the influence. Rigby’s saxophone shines at the start of everything changed after you left, a kind of wistful ballad. Not surprisingly, practising silence is a quiet tune led by an engaging piano triplet. The final track, continuation, dances around Morrisey’s bass and Rigby’s saxophone before Guiliana’s tympani gradually fades the album out.
It isn’t necessary for listeners to immerse themselves in Zen Buddhism to find much to enjoy in the notably introspective and thoughtful music of the sound of listening. Guiliana is more famous for his percussive, rock-inclined music—especially for his work on David Bowie’s final almost-jazz album Black Star—than for heading a more conventional jazz quartet; but this is an album that fits well into Edition Record’s growing catalogue and demonstrates Guiliana’s impressive compositional skills.
The album’s release is to be marked by a performance at the Jazz Café on 23 October – a very welcome opportunity to see one of America’s most influential drummers in action.
Release Date 7 October 2022
Categories: Album reviews