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Carnival Skin

Nemu 0003 [53:13]





1. Journey to Strange
2. Monster
3. Iono
4. Bobosong
5. Diagonal People
6. Carnival Skin.
Klaus Kugel - drums, percussions
Hilliard Greene - double bass
Bruce Eisenbeil - acoustic and electric guitars
Peter Evans - trumpet, piccolo trumpet, slide trumpet
Perry Robinson – clarinets
Recorded April 2005 at Leon Lee Dorsey Studio

"CARNIVAL SKIN’s sound is a catalyst which incites a transmission of energy through which the audience is compelled to participate in the process of investigation and self-discovery." Yes, there is the usual literary hyperbole through which we must wade when dealing with such releases, but this is all part of the fun – I’m not sure being ‘compelled to participate’ is necessarily a positive thing, but there is certainly some compelling music-making on this disc. ‘Avant-garde’ by nature, Carnival Skin’s work rummages around in that dangerous world of improvisation which can create marvels, but which always has the potential to expose itself under the Emperor’s New Clothes if your belief in the art-jazz genre is challenged by a sudden saxophone accident or trumpet tragedy.

Each member of this quintet has a great deal of experience and proven track record (literally) in this and other fields. If critical acclaim and high-class collaborating is anything to go by then we are in safe hands. Clarinettist Perry Robinson, son of folk composer Earl Robinson, has made many records over the years, and his woody sound can blend or contrast with Peter Evans’ trumpet - sometimes piccolo or slide trumpet - with challenging articulacy. Hilliard Greene’s bass is as much at home in melodic invention, bowing expressively as well as laying down a more traditional lower line where required. Bruce Eisenbeil’s guitar is a restless, roaming entity which holds the middle ground, providing harmonic glue between horns and bass or weaving its own way through the gritty dirt or atmospheric ambience of the aural soundscape. Klaus Kugel’s drum sound is a decisive element, colouring, attention grabbing or supporting as on and on it goes – like Peter Donald, I found his constant presence a little oppressive at times.

Reflective of a shared leadership, the programme includes one composition from each player and concludes with a collective eponymous improvisation. The quieter moments in (for instance) Bobosong and Diagonal People work best to my ears, giving at least the impression that the musicians are listening to each other. There are however great swathes where everyone is playing all of the time, something which even drove my cat up the wall. I tend not to take too much notice, the cat only likes Mike Westbrook and Kenny Wheeler, but there were some moments when we both had to look away and think of something else. I shall keep to myself what some of my composer colleagues call this kind of music-making, but personally I enjoy a challenge, and relished some of the unusual sound-combinations which eventually cropped up – the whistling counterpoints in Bobosong as a for-instance. I have a feeling that if this had been a live concert I would have stayed awake – which is more than can be said for most of the be-bop fare we get here in The Hague. The recording is good, but not without some moments of distortion at peak levels.

If you like your jazz cooking on a high flame and bubbling furiously, then this may well keep your headphones warm for many a session – please though, not the loudspeakers – your neighbours may kidnap your cat as a ransom to stop the noise.

Dominy Clements


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