The failings and callousness of mankind have long served as muse and model for artists, but rarely have such negative stimuli yielded such powerful, probing, and positively mesmerizing work as what can be heard on Inhuman Wilderness.
This fifth album from pianist Bobby Avey provides extraordinarily intense and thoughtful musical commentary on topics ranging from the unknown heroes and history-makers of our time to U.S. drone actions in the Middle East and Africa. In doing so, it delivers strong evidence to support the fact that Avey is an artist completely conscious of the relationship between thought and action, an individual cognizant of life’s great injustices and ugly truths, and a true believer in sonic syncretism. His eyes-wide-open music contains the DNA of post-modern jazz, prog, Haitian Vodou rhythms, Southeastern European folk traditions, funk, and twentieth century classical music, but it has a flavor all its own.
There’s an abiding and gripping sense of uncertainty here, due in no small part to the way that Avey plays stability against insecurity in rhythmic, harmonic, and dynamic terms. He works with bassist Thomson Kneeland, drummer Jordan Perlson, and saxophonist John O’Gallagher, building grooving latticework that obscures and dances around the downbeat while illuminating the simpatico sensibilities of all parties involved; he exhibits a penchant for dovetailing lines that disorient, tension that morphs but never quite releases, and ominous tones and atmospheres; and he displays a variable touch on his instrument, gentle in certain explorations of the upper reaches, firm-handed in central dialogue, and downright thunderous at times when exploring the depths.
The connections between Avey, Kneeland, and Perlson—a longstanding combination that goes back nearly ten years—continue to deepen and grow, as demonstrated most clearly during the three trio-centric tracks on the program. The remaining material—save for a slowly unfolding “Rent The Sky” for solo piano—brings O’Gallagher into the picture. He’s the new ingredient in Avey’s world, but you’d never know it from listening here. His first appearance—on “Fall Not A Tear”—finds him slicing through time, winding through the passageways carved out by his comrades, and delivering probing lines that fan the flames of exploration for the greater whole. His subsequent work—most notably on the tentatively searching title track and the dizzying and powerful “Composure Must Be Rare”—proves equally compelling.
In bringing the darkness of man to light, Bobby Avey has managed to further his own language and outlook while creating a riveting statement like no other. He’s raised the bar for himself and his peers with Inhuman Wilderness.
Track Listing: Countless Voices Of Unknown People; Fall Not A Tear; Inhuman Wilderness; Structural Adjustment; Land Theft; I Should Have Known No Less; Rent The Sky; Composure Must Be Rare.
Personnel: Bobby Avey: piano; John O’Gallagher: alto saxophone (2, 3, 6, 8); Thomson Kneeland: bass; Jordan Perlson: drums.