Latest review: Jon Hassell


Jon Hassell is the only consistently original successor to Miles Davis’ electric output and one of the most original instrumental stylists of the last thirty years. His regrettably low profile is ascribable to the sui generis nature of the thirteen albums he has recorded. Though primarily associated with his own Fourth World tribal/technology concept, his oeuvre reveals a range of other possibilities including bayou jazz (Fascinoma), digital cut-up (City: Works of Fiction) and hiphop (Dressing For Pleasure). Everything, including this album, is worthy of serious attention.

Last Night The Moon… takes its name from 13th century Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi and continues a narrative initiated by Hassell’s previous album, 2005′s Maarifa Street. That album shares with this latest release a sense of balance between past, present and future. Here, though, the practice reveals an even greater subtlety than the self-referential practice essayed by its predecessor.

Although performed by a patchwork quilt of different musicians, including Norwegians Jan Bang and Eivind Aarset, only violinist Kheir Eddine M’Kachiche and bass player Peter Freeman are distinctly recognisable. The ensemble creates delicate, cloud-like atmospheres that wreathe the listener in music that could be experienced as scent or touch. The album is a collaged snapshot of a working group: four of the ten compositions are live recordings. However, there are no rough edges and no audience noise. Tracks bleed into each other, signalled only by a renewed sense of oblique perspective.

Blue Period is a further exploration of the sublime Amsterdam Blue which only appeared on the soundtrack to Million Dollar Hotel and sounds like an infinitely weary cortege spied through a veil of mist, while¬† Courtrais is representative of the larger whole: a brooding, pendant atmosphere kneaded by powerful bass and haunted by Hassell’s warm-blooded, but spectral presence.

Last Night The Moon… offers up an impeccable soundworld which gradually reveals a sense of deeply meditative interaction from a group of individuals listening intently to one another. The music repays similar attention from the listener.

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