There is no doubt we are living in very strange times indeed. The whole world has succumbed to a pandemic, and as for politics, let us just say I am incredibly glad to be living at the end of the world. But there are always people who look to make the best of a bad thing, and the album I am listening to is an example of just that. Stick Men (Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter) with very special guest Gary Husband (on keyboards) had just commenced a tour of Japan and China when the world turned upside down. With some time before their flights out of the country Husband and Reuter, along with producer Leonard Pavkovic, booked a studio in Tokyo and on 3rd March 2020 captured a moment unlike any other. While Husband will probably always be linked with the mighty Allan Holdsworth as his drummer for many years, he is also a jazz keyboard player held in high regard, and here he sat at the studio’s Fazoli Pianoforti grand piano and allowed his imagination to take flight. Many years of playing next to one of the world’s most celebrated improvisors has put him in good stead to work with Markus Reuter, who has expanded the normal guitarists repertoire by his use of live electronics and Touch Guitars® AU8.
The set was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs, and anyone who thinks that improvised music is always unlistenable should hear this. Gary often takes the lead, although not always, but Markus is right there with him providing the support whether it is a few well-chosen picked notes on a guitar or some electronic backdrops for Gary to provide his magic against. It is languid, it is relaxing, and Gary has a deft control of the sustain pedal, allowing the piano’s notes to hang in the air and harmonize against each other. The two musicians may not have played with each other as much as they would have by the end of the tour, but due to each’s own personal musical journey they are able to interpret and react to what is happening in real time and adding to the overall feeling and never detracting. I wish I had been in the control room next to my old friend Leo, as I can imagine for the most part he was making minor tweaks to the sound and just sitting there with his eyes closed being transfixed by what was taking place. This is sheer beauty from start to end, and really is something magical. I am glad it was just the two of them, as if Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto had been there then I am sure it would have been special but there would have been a very different focus to the sound. Here we have the sound of water, sometimes babbling, sometimes a larger sea, but always in motion and never resting. This is music which transports the listener to a better time and place, where there is no pandemic, no death, no hate and while this plays it truly is a blessing.
Kev Rowland | 9/10