Tom Johnson is one of those American eccentrics, like Harry Partch or Sun Ra, who attained to a position of cult fame and never got very much further, though his work deserves better. He, however, is important to the music community not only for intriguing music but also because it was Johnson who coined the term 'minimalist' while a music critic for the prestigious Village Voice tabloid. I'm not familiar with his written work but am betting it's pretty damned good, given the degree of eclecticism and elegance in his sonics. Thus, it was with no small surprise that I espied this disc in the FAME Pick List and hastened to grab it. You don't come across such off-the-path music very often.
Nor do you happen across a player with the sensitivities of R. Andrew Lee all that frequently either. A young gent already possessing his doctorate as well as the impressive status of artist-in-residence at Avila University, Lee approached the 60-minute piece with imaginative adroitness and a penchant for creating landscapes simultaneously wistful and serene. Absorbing, enchanting, clever, thoughtful, all these adjectives and more fit this issuance of Piano from a newly minted label, Irritable Hedgehog, and, frankly, I even find elements of Keith Jarrett's mindset and inventiveness flavoring the disc as well.
Lee worked with Johnson and with David Borden (whom I interviewed for the ingloriously collapsed E/I magazine many years ago) and you'll hear patches of Michael Nyman's more elegant thinking as you listen. Johnson was not Glass nor Reich nor Adams, and Lee keeps him well identified within his own voice. I'll guess that intelligent New Age audients will find much here, as opposed to, say, the treacle produced by such as Steven Halpern and Georgia Kelley, but progressive music enthusiasts will definitely savor the golden patterns and rich moods contained herein. There's darkness and light but not terribly much malevolence and benevolence except by shades; rather, Hour is a study in artistic narrative, intelligently sporting with structure whilst spinning a subtle story without plot or characters. Or is it?
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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