American violinist Mark Feldman is known for his collaborations with John Zorn (and Masada songbook related projects), with his long-time partner, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, as well as pianists Uri Caine and Satoko Fujii, guitarist John Abercrombie and as a leader of his own quartet. But in his more than thirty-years-career he recorded only one solo album, Music for Violin Alone (Tzadik, 1995, produced by Zorn), prior to the new solo album, Sounding Point. These solo albums, and more so «Sounding Point», highlight the richness of Feldman’s distinct sound and voice, his inventive and resourceful vocabulary, and his sensitivity to sonic texture and pulse, all at the service of musical storytelling.
Feldman’s music relies on modern jazz and classical music legacies without surrendering to common conventions, and his improvising approach is always aware of context. «Sounding Point» harness Feldman’s impressive array of extended techniques – sliding harmonics, picking strings with his left, fingering hand while bowing, circular bowing or bowing or batting at strings with the bow’s wooden spine, to the point where he deploys these techniques unselfconsciously, mixing them freely, but always in the service of the musical stories.
«Sounding Point» was recorded at Studio Lulu in Brooklyn in April 2020 and offers eight short pieces that encompass his irreverent aesthetics. Feldman begins with Courvoisier «As We Are» (from her recent «Free Hoops», Intakt, 2020, and lets the beautiful melody sing while he plays call-and-response games. The title-piece is multi-tracked and Feldman’s violin(s) speak and sing the lyrical, fragile melody, in many languages, ranging from folky, flute-like sound to the more somber, chamber sounds of cello and double bass. Feldman arranged Ornette Coleman’s «Peace Warriors» (from «In All Languages», Caravan of Dreams, 1987) for two violins and employs Coleman’s harmolodics to fragment the pulse and the dramatic theme, inspecting it from various angles, but eventually making it sound deceptively violinistic. Feldman mentions in Kevin Whitehead’s insightful liner notes that he always loved Coleman’s violin playing.
«Unbound», «Rebound» and the last, «New Normal» are improvised pieces that revolve around repetitive elements, all stressing the richness of Feldman’s sound, his exquisite technique and the natural flow of music. «Maniac», with its recurring elements, sounds like expanding the minimalist aesthetics of Philip Glass. The center-piece, «Viciously», is another multi-tracked piece that incorporates cleverly eight bars of the standard «Tenderly» (made famous by Sarah Vaughan and Nat King Cole among many others) and suggests an intense and fast-shifting, emotional drama, full of improvised delights and grand gestures.
«Sounding Point» offers an excellent portrait of a great musician, composer and improviser.
Mark Feldman (vio)