The Burden of Memory: Jamie Oehlers, Paul Grabowsky, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland
How much do we need to analyse music and how much to just listen? To what extent can we escape our expectations of music from musicians who we’ve heard many times and yet not nearly enough?
To the first question, the answer is probably that to listen is sufficient, and that by listening more we gain more — appreciation, understanding and enjoyment. To the second, the answer is that we can easily be surprised. That is one of the joys of jazz or improvised music.
With this line-up of WA saxophonist Oehlers, Melbourne pianist Grabowsky and, from the US, bassist Rogers and drummer Harland, an album of strong, driving jazz was on the cards. But the original Oehlers compositions recorded in March this year (2015) in Brooklyn are full of subtleties and gentle expression. In a reworking of the standard Polkadots and Moonbeams, Oehlers pays tribute to his first saxophone teacher, Roger Garrood, “for instilling in me the importance of expression through music” and the whole mood of the album echoes and amplifies that commitment.
Evident in these pieces — and well complemented by Oehlers’ liner notes — is a thoughtfulness and introspection, a willingness to reflect on our changes (Revolutions), our world (Armistice), our minds (the title track), our fears (The Deep Freeze), our empathetic relationships (Helix) and our losses (Goodbye).
There’s plenty of grit here, even in And Moonbeams and especially in The Deep Freeze, but the lightness and floating beauty is frequently there so these compositions are anything but the burden that the title suggests. We are invited to luxuriate in and be captivated by the understated finesse of these players who can and do, in other contexts, produce so much power and driving force.
Three brief “duet moments” capture fleeting improvisations. The final Goodbye is also brief, a beautiful lament at the passing of saxophonists David Ades, Bernie McGann and Mike Stewart.
The Burden of Memory is an album to let wash over us, so that we may feel our minds have been gently cleansed and refreshed — but only after some pensiveness and soul-searching.
For star lovers: 4 out of 5