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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke


hatOLOGY 564

This is a reissue of a tribute album to Annette Peacock that was originally released in 1992. It is a timely reissue because Peacock herself re-emerged last year with An Acrobat's Heart (on ECM). That was her first album release in a decade, and showed that she can still create songs that bear her trademark combination of delicacy and raw emotion.

Also worthy of mention is Nothing ever was anyway by Marilyn Crispell (also on ECM) another tribute album to Peacock that has considerable overlap with the compositions on Annette. (Incidentally, Crispell was joined by Gary Peacock on bass and Paul Motian on drums, who were in Paul Bley's trio in the sixties. The musical and personal cross connections here verge on incestuous, and are far too complex to discuss here in detail, intriguing as they are!).

Peacock's recording career (for want of a better word) has consisted of albums released in fits and starts, often with long gaps in between. So these tribute albums have served to give her a relatively high profile even when she herself has not released new albums. She has the kind of cult status that money cannot buy, and her compositions - though relatively few in number - are held in the highest esteem by many respected players. Bley has recorded her compositions over many years, some in several different versions, and they are cornerstones of his discography (rivalled only by those of another of his ex-wives, Carla Bley).

Although Paul Bley and Gary Peacock are both ex-husbands of Annette Peacock, it was actually Franz Koglman who instigated this tribute.

Apart from an occasional flourish from Bley, the music here is very sparse. The tempos are funereal. The songs (without vocals) are stripped back to their bare essentials, revealing the simple beauty of their melodies, and their emotional power. Of the twelve tracks, there are two versions each of "Touching" and of "Blood" (both of which have lent their titles to past Bley albums). Although referred to as "take 1" and "take 2" in each case, that is disingenuous; the two are completely different versions, not retakes. So, "Touching (take 1)" is a solo piano performance of some six minutes, while take 2 lasts less than two minutes and is trumpet and bass duo.

The longest track here, "Mr Joy" (yes, also another Bley album title) is typically melancholy, largely resulting from Koglman's work. He has the ability to convey deep emotions in comparatively few notes, by his use of tone and phrasing. He recognises the power of a pregnant pause that can say far more than a flurry of notes. On the only original track here, "Annette", his playing is at its sparest and most economical, but also its most affecting; he plays little and repeatedly holds long notes that bristle with pathos. However, it is unjust to single Koglman out. Paul Bley - as ever - is totally distinctive and also spellbinding throughout. Peacock does nothing unnecessary or intrusive, yet is an essential ingredient of the overall success of the music.

This is music that is shot through with sadness. Nonetheless, it is also some of the most beautiful music produced in the past decade. Annette forms a perfect threesome with Nothing ever was anyway and An Acrobat's Heart.

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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