Wednesday, March 3, 2010

David Torn: The Guitar And What's Next

David Torn (guitar, electronics; 1953)

New Yorker David Torn, not unlike Mark Isham, is a jazz musician with uncategorizable talents. He has worked on both jazz, world, rock and film and tv projects consistently throughout his career. His career includes studying under John Abercrombe and Leonard Bernstein. He does have a very deep catalog but unfortunately only a few albums are available. He received significant recognition for his work on the Everyman Band albums during the 80s. The albums that are available are truly phenomenal and worth the purchase, especially if you are a fan of Brian Eno, King Crimson, David Sylvian, Supersilent, et al.

David Torn's style is layered and tempered with ambient elements similar to Nils Petter Molvaer or Michael Brook. His style is subtle and sublime with beautiful combinations of the avant garde, mysticism and traditional jazz. Torn can turn the guitar into a dangerous instrument with elements of prog as highlighted from his latest album Perezens (ECM) with the titled track and its preceding track, "Bulbs". His music can be unsettling to the uninitiated but if you are already used to some of the aforementioned artists and you haven't listened to David Torn yet, Perezens is definitely the place to start.

He has recorded three albums for his current label ECM and Prezens is by far the most realized of the three. There is wonderful work from the rest of the band consisting of New York regulars, Tom Rainey (drums), Craig Taborn (piano) and Tim Berne (sax). The album provides a funky turn of sorts with "Them Buried Standing" which I've always loved. This is usually the point at which if you haven't lost the uninitiated, they might start to enjoy the album. If not, trust me they never will.

Perezens is an album of lovely textual soundscapes and loud cacophonous minimalism. If you dig this, his previous ECM album Cloud About Mercury and Best Laid Plans are well worth seeking out. There is a compilation of his earlier work pre-ECM (both solo and as session member) entitled The David Torn Collection which is good but not very well sequenced. It does show the range and variety of artists and styles he has worked in but I would stick to the ECM recordings for best enjoyment.

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