- CD "Tenderness of Stones"
The Wire, Jazz & Impro
Tenderness of Stones is a work that asks searchings questions—typical
of both vocalist Lauren Newton and saxophonist Joachim Gies—about
the relation of text to sound and what happens between the words. An
eight line poem by Michael Speier, never heard in ist original, is performed
in four different translations (three in English, including Lauren Newton's
own, one in Japanese), stretching the improvisatory skills of both players.
It's a work that manages to be both intimate and suggest grand scale.
Only two tracks are straight voice/saxophone duos, with all the rest
involving sampled radio noise and guest contributions from Michael Walz
and Koho Mori, who also supplied the Japanese translation. Newton at
her magnificent best; Gies subltl and endlessly pro/evocative.
Experimental vocalist Lauren Newton is equally at ease
with or without
lyrics, but sax player Joachim Gies usually prefers to develop projects
around words, whenever voice is involved (see his Not Missing Drums
Project’s Urban Voices and The Gay Avantgarde). Therefore, for
(mainly) duo collaboration, the pair worked from a poem by German
Michael Speier, but the original is never actually heard. Instead,
performs three different English translations (by herself, Rosmarie
Waldrop and Richard Dove), and Japanese translator Koho Mori delivers
the final reading. These performances are interspersed with wordless
sax/voice duets and a few trios with mixing engineer Michael Walz
electronics and sampling. Even the duet tracks feature the crackle
signals, so the music is rarely purely acoustic. Gies and Newton
together before in larger projects and their chemistry is well established,
as can be heard in “What Happens Between the Words” and “Fiery”.
Gies’ musical vocabulary appears a little bit limited here --
mostly to sustained quiet notes and long low tremolos -- Newton’s
fascinatingly wide as ever: laments, shouts, psalmody, ululations, and
much more. It would not be fair to say that she carries the whole album,
she is surely responsible for its unique character. However, despite
settings (with/without lyrics, with/without Walz), the album sounds a
too homogeneous to sustain the listener’s interest for a whole
hour. Yet, it
remains a strong opus, very well thought out and assembled, if somewhat
clinical in its design.