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Corbett Vs. Dempsey Gallery - EYE & EAR: Musician<->Artist

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Artist: Corbett Vs. Dempsey Gallery

Album: EYE & EAR: Musician<->Artist

Label: Atavistic

Review date: Nov. 19, 2006

Corbett Vs. Dempsey is a swell destination to cap off a weekend visit to Chicago’s Dusty Groove record store. Just troop up the stairs and you’ll find some thoughtfully (and often wittily) collected visual art, often with the sort of musical tie-in you’d expect from a gallery co-operated by a musician/music critic. In late 2004 the gallery hosted Eye & Ear, an exhibit that took this overlap to its logical extreme by showing the works of musicians who are also visual artists; this album, which was originally available during the show as a CD-R, features seven tracks by various participants.

The album starts strong with a pair of jazz duos. “Jada” is a crackly acetate of a 1950 performance by the incomparable clarinetist Pee Wee Russell and pianist Michael Snow (a painter and an experimental filmmaker, respectively). Snow’s ivory-tinkling is rather late night, but Russell’s blowing is beyond ingratiating. Then comes the 2004 reunion of Peter Brötzmann, also playing clarinet, and drummer Han Bennink. Given the participants, the reluctance with which “Take 5” rises from silence and the restraint that governs their interactions is remarkable, but the intensity of its melancholy vibe is not. Sun Ra checks in with an a cappella rejection of romance that sounds like it was sung into a cheap handheld cassette recorder. It’s really just a trifle, but it affirms his roots in cornball pre-WW II songcraft. “Dickie’s Dream” by Dave Coleman & Friends is a winning small-group swing tune from 1943 or thereabouts that betrays none of bebop’s looming impact; tap your foot and sip your drink, this tune will serve you well.

The rest of the album is of more recent vintage and mainly Midwestern provenance. Chicago-based sound artist Lou Mallozzi’s electro-acoustic orchestration of whistles, crackle and groan makes no secret of its amplifier-dependent origins, which makes the growl of Sebi Tramontana’s untreated trombone seem like a brightly inked cartoon character dropped into a grainy black and white film clip from long ago. Mark Booth, of Tiny Hairs, contributes a contemplative acoustic guitar recital whose obvious debt to David Grubbs is ameliorated by the knowledge that Grubbs doesn’t play that way much anymore. Instrument inventor Hal Rammel’s “Weave & Daze” starts with field recordings of stormy weather, but soon leaves the outdoors behind for what sounds like a document of Rammel working at his tool bench. Inscrutable and not terribly appealing, it’s the collection’s only outright dud.

By Bill Meyer

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