Diatribe Recordings DIACD006
Double Trio is the product of Ian Wilson’s year-long residency in the Glencullen electoral area south of Dublin. Commissioned by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council as part of its Place and Identity programme, it is based on interviews with local residents conducted by the composer and offers eight portraits of an area Wilson describes as ‘one of the least spoiled parts of the country and, paradoxically, one of the areas which has seen most development’.
Wilson explores the effects of the unprecedented changes felt during the now long-gone period when the Celtic Tiger economy was roaring its loudest. Each work begins with a snatch of speech drawn from Wilson’s fieldwork to prompt and punctuate a series of loose-limbed, lightly textured, jazz-accented pieces that strive to mimic the rhythms and patterns of everyday life and speech in Glencullen.
Double Trio’s title alludes to the instrumental forces assembled and picks up where 2007’s re:play, which brought together an improvising saxophone and a classical sextet, left off. Here, improvisation is discernibly to the fore, with three instruments more usually associated with jazz – saxophone, double bass and drums – allowed comparatively free room to ad lib than their score-centred, classically inclined trio of violin, harp and vibraphone.
While Wilson provides beginning, end and clear pointers of direction in between, much of the energy of the work comes from the variants and flights of fancy of the jazz trio. There’s an enchanting playfulness to ‘The Kids’, where individual instrumental voices weave around each other in flowing ribbons of energy and exploration. With onomatopoeic percussion, ‘The Stonemason’ boasts its own industriously alert moments. I would have liked a few more hard facts about ‘Catherine’, not least for the sheer vivacity of the music that describes her, skipping and dancing with a gleeful scattiness that calls Neal Hefti to mind.
There’s something altogether more cautious and circumspect about instrumental relationships in the bebop-peppered ‘The Reverend’, while ‘Residents’ is populated by a number of precisely characterised musical portraits. If ‘The Hostelry Manager’ seems to stray towards period pastiche in its depiction of ‘a place that has hardly changed at all’, its not clear whether this is by design or default, the vibraphone (Richard O’Donnell) becoming the fourth partner in a jazz ensemble given its head. Either way, it translates into moments of frozen nostalgia that is curiously affecting.
Low-register pulses on vibraphone and double bass (Dan Bodwell) anchor Cathal Roche’s boozy, lachrymose saxophone and Stu Richie’s slurred percussion in ‘The Forest Manager’ to evocative effect and in austere contrast to the busy messiness of ‘The Convenience Store Owner’ in which harpist Clíona Doris adds her own delightfully minimalist commentary.
An interesting experiment with interesting results, Double Trio points to council money having been well spent.
Published on 1 August 2009
Michael Quinn is a freelance music and theatre journalist based in Co. Down.