FAME Review: Adam Meckler Orchestra - When the Clouds Look Like This
Adam Meckler Orchestra - When the Clouds Look Like This

When the Clouds Look Like This

Adam Meckler Orchestra

Available from the Adam Meckler Orchestra Bandcamp page.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Goethe, of all people, noted first that "Collectors are happy people" and then that "Happy people have no history", simple profundities rare in any era. As a collector, I've always been struck that such a mind understood rather than damned, as is usually the case, the philia in we who appreciate things rather than merely use them. Collectors are continually a-hunt for what presents sets of fidelities to standards and then variations…kinda like the best musicians, and both cherish what Wilde just as simply denoted in the distinctions between good art and bad art.

Collectors and musicians are connoisseurs in their own ways. Ah, but what constitutes good and bad art? Well, trumpeter Adam Meckler isn't just a composer-player but also an academic, one of the three who set up the SoKillingMan.com site dedicated to the study of transcribed jazz solos. He also generated his own trumpet studio in the Twin Cities along with performing clinics all over America. I think we can safely say, as ol' Johann Wolfgang had, that Adam is a happy person. He collects musical notes and puts 'em under the microscope. So he's an educator as well as a collector, and obviously a very dedicated one.

Busta Jones, the very first cut of his When the Clouds Look like This, quite reflects that, opening very unorthodoxly in an extended jagged drum solo that, as the 11:34 song progresses, forces the listener to reconsider the role of the drum kit in music. Yep, that's right, not only a drum solo at the beginning of a song but within a fragmentedly coherent piece that reflects the intro percussive tempo and melodics. Then Skyline pops up, opening as a metropolitan dawn, at first simple but profound in its use of classicalist and neoclassicalist tonal approaches as the band starts to enter, the chart for Nelson Devereaux's sax line truly extraordinarily, just brush strokes seemingly posited by chance but, God, what emotions are created, what attention to the meeting of Nature and human!

No cut on this CD is less than 8-1/2 minutes, each a classroom in striking development and arrangement choices, so should one ever wonder what comes of such an exotic mania as Meckler's devotion to the study of jazz solos brings, Clouds answers the curiosity in spades. I had to listen to Skyline three times before I could progress any further. Absolutely magnificent, miles beyond the traditional, centered in a Sam Rivers / Sonny Rollins inner eccentricity that woulda knocked Stravinsky, Bartok, or even Takemitsu off their pins had those bad boys chanced to glom it. I was stunned, and the rest of the band conducted itself all around the sax as though a painting slowly coming to life. Sigh! Now Meckler has even me wanting to study solos 'cause…well, how can musicians even think like that???

That sense of wonder is precisely what captures the ear without cease. No section of this disc is less than a highly intelligent and defiant blend of the expected and the heterodoxical in a dance reconciling both, skirling about in a fashion revealing facets of the everyday you never understood were there yet have been staring us all in the face every minute. When the Clouds Look Like This is actually neoclassical music and, frankly, as sterling as the upper reaches of the Zoho label's finest (Leo Brouwer, Pablo Ziegler, etc.), something I didn't think I'd find any time soon. Meckler is engaged in providing a breathtaking look at what lies just over the horizon not just in jazz but in music as art qua art.

And I listened carefully to Adrian Suarez's drums all the way through the hourlong set 'cause that opening salvo did exactly what it was strategized to do. There's more than a little of the trickster in Meckler, every really good educator has to be a bit diabolical to trap students into a love and devotion to the subject to hand, and it's work like this that tells me more than ever that the Second Florentine Renaissance is indeed in the offing; if, that is, we can manage to emplace artists where politicians and businessmen now stand…though I'm not sure I'd wish that damnation on anyone.

Track List:

  • Busta Jones
  • Skyline
  • Sparkly Eyes
  • When the Clouds Look Like This
  • Open Your Eyes
  • Beautiful Beatrice
All songs written by Adam Meckler.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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