David Binney - "Out of Airplanes"

David Binney

Review by Brad Walseth

Amazingly enough, alto saxman David Binney has done it again - releasing not only one of the best releases of 2006, but like lightning striking twice - he has produced two! "Cities and Desire" (see our review) was a tantalizing trip through the musical world of Binney's mind - one that showcased the intricate structures of the composer's songwriting and arranging. Now "Out of Airplanes" comes and takes a different, yet no less exciting, direction. Recorded in Seattle with a different cast of musicians (including guitar innovator Bill Frisell) - "Out of Airplanes" moves into free form improvisation with utterly delicious results.

"Brainstorms Pt. 1" opens the CD with Binney and Frisell bending time and space over the skittering drums of Kenny Wollesen, Craig Taborn's atmospheric electronics and Eivind Opsvik's active bass. "Contributors" follows and Taborn's time-shifting piano provides the basis on which the "contributors" add their textures through contrapuntal/melodic tentacles of sound. Frisell and Binney seem to share an almost telepathic link - as their tones nearly merge into one another and it becomes difficult to determine where the saxophone ends and the guitar begins. This is music for a new era - mind-bending and effervescent.

Opsvik's quiet - almost hymn-like "Jan Mayen" follows and this highlight allows Binney the opportunity to soar over the chimes and majestic tapestries created by his bandmates on this sublimely beautiful ballad. The title track again features Taborn's staggered arpeggios as providing the initial groundwork - with Opsvik's glockenspiel providing an intriguing element, and Adam Rogers' additional guitar jet streams - as the music takes flight - adding to the intensity. But don't get me wrong - although much of this music is indeed improvised, Binney's always superb sense of melody is very much intact - and his collaborators are completely in tune with him in this regard. This has resulted in challenging, yet highly rewarding listening.

"The Forgotten Gems" is a brief walk through a gothic cathedral, before "Wild Child" returns us to the piano-driven, time-changing mode that Binney favors. Some of the composer's work (such as this one) hints at the best work of the late Frank Zappa in the delightfully unexpected time changes and surprising melodic content. "Home" finds Binney's sense of restlessness and longing shining through his incessant melodic repetition - while Frisell gives full cry in lustrous soloing - this is music of uncommon depth and beauty.

The CD continues with "Brainstorms Pt. 2" - somewhat reminiscent of King Crimson's forays into industrial sounds, then segues into the hauntingly surreal "Bring Your Dream" - an eerie improvised piece that feels like an uneasy journey through a dark forest at night. "Instant Distance" ends the album powerfully with Wollesen riffing ferociously underneath the mysterious rising and falling melodies. Binney's mother Dolores passed away during the making of this project and this was the last of his music she heard. I can think of no greater form of love than to have provided this lovely tonal soundtrack to the passing of a spirit into the next journey.

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