Every now and then a recording comes out which renews the realization of how richly creative improvised music can be. What is intriguing is the idea of the well of introspection that must trigger the musicians’ process. The answer to the question "What comes next?" keeps the listener glued to the music.
In the Ictus release, The Soul in the Mist, Andrea Centazzo, on drums and percussion, Nobu Stowe, on piano, and Perry Robinson, on clarinet, render the anticipation of "What comes next?" easy to accept. The concept of this recording is built on the careful traveling through an alluring, appealing and mysterious atmosphere to a place of surprise.
Robinson’s clarinet articulation is brilliant. From its delicately shrill pitches to its rich deeper-toned melodies to occasional series of rhythmic phrase repetitions, the clarinet embodies an unmistakable innocence. The evolution of the moments tells the story of a journey. Sometimes the horn seems tentative and wistful and other times curious and insecure. Robinson gives the clarinet the character of a human being, a young and shy one, one that is delighted in discovery.
The piano and percussion generate a succession of support mechanisms on which the clarinet can base its moves. Centazzo and Stowe set the stage in the first track, "The Soul in the Mist". And in every cut thereafter, it seems that they are effectively protecting the clarinet’s every note.
Centazzo creates the biggest sound. Predominantly, he uses mallets on the toms. An ominous picture often gives way to one of safety and embrace. Rattles, a keyboard and cymbals serve to decorate the musical surface that indicates an Oriental character. The last track, "The Voices", stands out as one where the drums are actually applied rhythmically.
Stowe maintains a weighted calm. He often charts a background to the instrumental traveling by fingering single note progressions up and down the piano keyboard. In "Last Song", Stowe nails a beautiful solo that can only inspire Robinson to inherit the top line. Although, it feels like Stowe plays many chords, he really is taking them apart and spreading them across the tapestry that is the soundscape.
Generally, the music always seems distant, but Robinson tends to bring it forward. He becomes the ‘soul in the mist’. The extinction of that soul occurs in the last track, "The Voices", when it meets head-on with a stark, harsh reality of a voice, broadcasting information, somewhat similar to how it would sound in an airport.
This recording might be interpreted as metaphor for living: how we wander with our eyes open to the vastness of what is ahead until something unexpected confuses us and causes us to stop, literally eradicating our wonder.