Farmers By Nature: Out of this world Distortions
It’s not very fashionable le to imagine there is a lot of good in the world. It never has been. From Plato through to Shakespeare the lamentations have been about our own failure to perform our highest good. We hold our back hand against our forehead and cry “I try! God knows I try! But I just can’t do what I know I should do!” We are all characters in a Fellini movie caught in a tangled tension line between our ego (Satan) and our conscience (God).
However, the story of the world is not one of evil constantly getting in the way of good. It is of a meandering mess of experience upon which we place several judgements (maybe). Chocolate is bad if you diet, good if you share it with your panting lover in bed… and so forth. It’s usually a matter of perspective. And more than that even. One can argue that the world is the story of good constantly overcoming evil. Time and time again we have seen evil rise in the world and time and time again we have seen it squashed by the wisdom and experience born of time. No great evil in the world has ever been able to endure indefinitely. There is a profound optimism in that thought – if you let it take you.
And this meandering introduction brings me to the beautiful Farmers by Nature disc, Out of this World’s Distortions. Farmers by Nature is an improvisational trio consisting of Craig Taborn (piano), William Parker (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). All three of these musicians are accomplished in open style as well as in composed works. You can feel the control via an infused imagery in every track. Out of this world’s Distortions refers to Cleaver’s observation of how good still manages to bloom in the face of adversity.
Adversity in its many forms.
The first track is an ode to Fred Anderson. The degree of unified solemnity mostly speaks to the trios accomplishments playing together over the last four years. After that the five remanning pieces are a light tripping through a deep listening experience – not just on my part, but of each musician to the other. It’s the subtle capabilities of each artist on their own that form the basis of such an intensely engaged experience. I’ve read that the album tracks are laid out in order of performance to give a sense of a live recording. The depth of engagement the listener experiences is testament to that, as well as the stand alone brilliance of each performer. This disc isn’t an experience of fusion. This is a salad bowl of beauty, each ingredient retaining its identity so that the combination creates something greater than the sum of its parts.
By the time the recording reaches “Cuttings Gait” (track 5)…. and there have been many wonderful moments prior to this one, the live improv feel is in full force and the listener has been removed from their surrounds. This album isn’t an experience, it’s a vortex. The experience is personal, and I know that is difficult to say about a jazz trio, there are so many of them, but this collective is unique in their ability to hold on to a captivated listener for hours. The tracks on this disc circle around a dynamic subtlety that is at times gentle and at others insistent. Between these breathtaking bursts of lingering sustained sound is a more free style jazz heat, alchemising the elements both historical and experiential into a kind of musical gold.
This album is one of the best things I have heard this year. An unholy kind of good.