Hank Roberts

[Winter & Winter, www.winterandwinter.com]

  First a confession. I've not been a zealous fan of cellist Hank Roberts over the years. I've skimmed over some of his work and largely I've been impressed by what he's played with Bill Frisell, Mark Feldman, Joey Baron, Tim Berne, Mark Dresser and others. Sometime in the 90's, Roberts left NYC to live in the outskirts. He made no bones about the fact that his family took precedence over music. Two years ago, guitarist Marc Ducret, percussionist Jim Black and Roberts went on a brief European tour, which brings us to this album. "Green" was recorded in 2007 in a Munich studio over a span of only three days. All but two numbers are Roberts originals, which tends to be a good sign of someone trying to get their artistic life back on track. Though Roberts is in command of a very unique language, I can't help but hear echoes of the late Tom Cora in some of his pieces. A similar lulling, energy prevails in the music, while a sense of melancholy wraps its arms around the whole. The band itself works well on many levels. In a purely frantic scenario - as on the hearty "Cola People" - guitarist Marc Ducret and percussionist Jim Black give Roberts a run for his money. It's a dog eat dog scenario as the musical idiom seems to be stretched in every possible direction. With the track's many trajectories, it's a wonder the listener comes out alive at the end of the piece. On a different level, "Bernie Alap" features Roberts going off into the world of chamber music. His tender movements across the strings of the cello make for truly mesmerizing listen. Further on, "The Departing Hunter's Song/War Dance Song/Jersey Devil" sees Ducret pick up his electric guitar and the pacing changes yet again. As Roberts is frantically plucking at the strings on the cello, waves of guitar wash comes rushing through, while Black is playing broken-up percussive slabs. Even Roberts' vocals on this number don't distract one from this rich music. Multi-faceted piece of work, "Green" sees a revered musician returning to his music in grand style.

  - Tom Sekowski

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+ Various Artists - Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967 - 1974 / Various Artists - Summer Records Anthology: 1974 - 1988 / Jackie Mittoo - Wishbone / Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy - Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy
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