JASPER VAN T'HOF/JOEY BARON

Un Incontro Illusorio
Challenge CHR 70093

What's so unusual about an organ and drums duo, you ask? Didn't people like Jimmy Smith, Johnny "Hammond" Smith and Don Patterson turn out scads of organ records in every type of combination all through the 1960s and 1970s?

Well yes, but the conception of this CD is a little different than those hunks of funk. For a start, Dutch keyboardist Jasper van t'Hof initially recorded these 17 tunes in 1998 on what seems to be a single keyboard, traditional church organ in the Chiesa de Santa Maria delle Rose in Bonefro, Italy.

A little less than two years later American drummer Joey Baron taped his percussion parts in an Amsterdam studio, and those were then dubbed on top of van t'Hof's initial improvisations. The result while definitely unique isn't wholly successful and not for the reason you'd imagine.

In this POMO world, there's nothing sacred about insisting on recording live off the floor, even in jazz. Mixing two or more individually recorded sounds together is pretty standard in the industry and, a recent CD by Spring Hill Jack blending tracks from New York and London, shows that this manipulation can even work for improv.

Nonetheless, even after you've become accustomed to the wheezy tones of the ancient organ, you're still conscious of the time and space separation between the two instrumentalists on some tracks. However, it's a tribute to the skills of both the organist and the drummer that so many others fit together seamlessly.

You would expect this sort of experiment from Baron, who in his time with musical chameleons like alto saxophonist John Zorn and guitarist Bill Frisell established himself as percussionist who could play just about anything. Van t'Hof, on the other hand, made his reputation as a fusion player, with recording and playing partners like drummers Gerry Brown and Alphonse Mouzon and saxophonists Ernie Watts and Bob Malach. Recently, nevertheless, he's tried his hand and won awards for his playing of traditional modern jazz. And this disc further showcases his versatility.

As a quick rule of thumb, it's usually those improvisations that go on a little longer, such as "Balsam" — the longest at almost six minutes — and "Blue March" that come across the best. However even something like "A Bad Knife Shaving" whose scarcely more than one minute of protracted organ crescendos is broken up by inventive cymbal and rolling floor tom work, shows that if inspired enough Baron can practically knit a new melody from whole cloth.

Other pieces like "Bluff Waltz" and "Umhblabla", fail for different reasons, which in the main relate back to van t'Hof. On the first he treats the church organ in such a way that it sounds like a low-grade calliope. On the later, the recording of the instrument is too muffled to mix with Baron's studio-produced sound.

For sheer novelty's sake, many folks could be interested in investigating what happened here and it's certainly an experiment that deserves to be tried again. Bizarrely, its creation will also give some caustic reviewers pause next time they write that a certain musician on a disc sounds like he was recorded at a different location than the others. Maybe, as this session demonstrates, he was.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. One O Four 2. Eather 3. Les Deux 4. Helium Speech 5. The Ultimate 6. No Pray 7. Bluff Waltz 8. Hymen 9. Balcony Zone 10. Douala 11. A Bad Knife Shaving 12. Balsam 13. Naves and Choir 14. Bam Booz 15. The Esteem Proceed 16. Umhblabla 17. Blues March

Personnel: Jasper van t'Hof (church organ); Joey Baron (drums)