With all the outrageously righteous straight ahead, Brasiliana, and outside jazz I’ve been sent over the last year, I’d lost sight of the contemplative side of things until laying an ear to Tim Ferguson and Inside/Out’s Hold That Thought! wherein the opening cut is gorgeously Kenny Wheeleresque, trumpet / alto horn player Rob Henke as doleful as the Northern skies, as moody as a winter storm’s aftermaths. Diane Moser sets the opening perfectly in a highly restrained piano intro that continues throughout the entirety of the cut. Then Ferguson cuts in with his contrabass, limning the ground and sidewalls. The track is Charlie Haden’s Silence and it’s very aptly named.
Only a Dream, the second outing, picks up the pace, more fully displaying Moser’s pointillist explications. Her style is distinctively choppy but never wanting, perfectly attuned to what’s sometimes written and other times the completely spontaneous nature of the trio’s work but also quite idiosyncratic. I haven’t heard quite this style for a long time, forgetting how much I missed it and how rare it is. Richie Beirach could catch on it, as can Jarrett when he’s extrapolating (A Drink and a Cigarette sounds as though it might be parts left out of The Koln Concerts), but as a dominant métier? Not easy to find, and she really goes to town on One for Mal, of course dedicated to Mal Waldron.
The music isn’t as meandering as it first seems to be—though even that is a quality I’d never harsh anyone’s gig on when delivered with such integrity—but rather a form of elongated narrative with authorially punctuated side observances. With Henke and Moser continually in the foreground, Freguson is the sole rhythm section, though Diane occupies a mid-ground when Henke’s conversational lines are featured. Ferguson notes that this is not a disc for everyone, and he’s quite right, but it should be VERY palatable to those who know what the term ‘jazz’ really means—that is, beyond Kenny G, Yanni, and other lobotomy cases. In many ways, the 9-spot here is notably European, headier and richer than what’s normally encountered between Maine and California, the result of minds never settling for the easy out, the cliché, the banal.
This isn’t just jazz, it isn’t just music, it’s art, it crosses borders with the visual side of the house because there are so many large, open, airy spaces. The players wield their instruments as though a set of inks, temperas, oils, brushes, lino blocks, in order to create sketches that expand in the mind. I have only one criticism: Ferguson needs a more up-front soundfield designation, as his lines are not only akin to his icon’s, Haden, but also to Gary Peacock and require a co-equal presence, especially in this mode. Not that I’m complaining, y’unnerstan’, but such documentation would shift the dynamic even more strongly.