It's not often the stars align themselves in a way that they allow for such a unique musical collaboration as the one between German pianist Simone Weissenfels and American multi-instrumentalist Adam Smith. Yet this is exactly what transpired when these two kindred spirits got together this past fall to weave their magic during a small performance tour of select US cities. In addition to these performances, where they were joined onstage by special guest musicians in each locale, they also managed to capture their flood of creativity over the course of four days together in the studio. The results of some of these live-in the studio improvisations can be heard on this splendid new four song offering entitled Arrival.
The performances on Arrival reveal not only the obvious, which is two musicians who are extremely adept on their respective instruments, but also more importantly these compositions highlight the magical possibilities that can be conjured up when two like-minded individuals, who are as well versed and epitomize the art of musical dialogue, get together. Weissenfels (acoustic piano) and Smith (drums & electronics) converse and feed off each other with a remarkable amount of fluidity, pouring their heart and soul into almost sixty minutes of intensely demanding & intriguing, improvised music.
The music on Arrival proves to be an almost equally challenging experience for the listener, yet the duo's "composing on the spot" method is extremely effective and powerful, yielding one epiphany after another. While Simone and Adam do venture off into some pretty fierce passages that are very Free-Jazz like in nature, its Simone's Classical music background that is really the springboard here for the majority of this music. Also unlike some of the more extreme avant-garde stylings of Free-Jazz, where it may sound to the untrained ear that all of the musicians are playing at the same time and fighting for space within the music, these two musicians share such an exceptional understanding, which in turn allows them to give each other the necessary space, so that even in their wildest flights, it never sounds like they're stepping on each other's toes so to speak. The immediacy of opening track "Majestic" or the continuous, beautiful ebb and flow of "Absacker" and "Arrival" are perfect examples which highlight just how well these two distinctly different musical personalities are able to seamlessly blend themselves together into one.
The musical centerpiece on Arrival is definitely the muti-faceted epic "Essex", which at twenty seven minutes in length comprises almost half the album. This dynamic composition which is unlike the other three, features a prepared tape backdrop of Smith on the ARP 2600 synthesizer laying down an abstract foundation for the duo to expand upon and gradually open up. The first half of this track focuses primarily on creating an eerie sense of foreboding, as the tension increases slowly via the odd drum flourish and carefully selected piano notes. The song opens up around the fifteen minute mark before retreating back into more minimalist, atmospheric textures. However it's the final seven minutes that yield the most interesting results, because just as the listener is lured into a rare sense of security and calm, out of nowhere comes the ghostly sound of what appears to be voices from the other side that explode forth with a chilling impact that will make the hair on your arms stand up. The song concludes with a furious coda that sees both Simone and Adam turning in an extended improvisation that finds them takimg both their individual and collective performances to a new level.
Arrival is an extremely rewarding and enriching listening experience and one of musical discovery, not only for the musicians but for the listener as well. This music is about the magic that can occur when two musicians of this caliber come together to converse and create within the moment.
Note: To hear samples from Arrival you can visit either Adam or Simone's personal MySpace pages. Adam (www.myspace.com/adamsmithmusic) Simone (www.myspace.com/mspianotaste)
1) Majestic 3:06
2) Absacker 16:46
3) Essex 26:55
4) Arrival 10:13