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REVIEWS - 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.
Brian Morton

All-Music Guide

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 this
(mainly) duo collaboration, the pair worked from a poem by German poet
Michael Speier, but the original is never actually heard. Instead, Newton
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 on
electronics and sampling. Even the duet tracks feature the crackle of radio
signals, so the music is rarely purely acoustic. Gies and Newton have worked
together before in larger projects and their chemistry is well established,
as can be heard in “What Happens Between the Words” and “Fiery”. If
Gies’ musical vocabulary appears a little bit limited here -- he resorts
mostly to sustained quiet notes and long low tremolos -- Newton’s is as
fascinatingly wide as ever: laments, shouts, psalmody, ululations, and so
much more. It would not be fair to say that she carries the whole album, but
she is surely responsible for its unique character. However, despite diverse
settings (with/without lyrics, with/without Walz), the album sounds a bit
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.
François Couture

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