Frank Carlberg | The American Dream

Red Piano  (2009)
By JON GARELICK  |  April 21, 2009
4.0 4.0 Stars


Other jazz musicians have set the poetry of Robert Creeley to music — Steve Lacy with singer Irene Aebi and, on the 1979 ECM album Home, Steve Swallow with Sheila Jordan. Pianist Carlberg and singer Christine Correa lean more toward Lacy's hard edges than Swallow's rounded harmonies. Here poetry takes on the form of incantation in the repetition of Creeley's short, oblique verses.

Correa clears the table immediately with a banshee wail — in control and on pitch — before digging into Carlberg's funky line for "We Get Crazy": "We get crazy, but we have fun/Life is short & life gets done." The rhythm and melody of those staccato syllables sets the whole piece, Carlberg repeating the figure in his left hand even as his right takes off on boppish runs with bassist John Hebert, drummer Michael Sarin, and tenor sax Chris Cheek.

The leaping intervals and staccato declamation etch each word, each syllable, Correa adding heat with her sharp diction. The approach also works for ballad-tempo pieces like "Speech" and the war lament "If Ever There Is." More than spare settings, these are full art-song arrangements for jazz band, from slow drones to fast-running swing. The melodies help you remember the words; the words help you remember the melodies.

FRANK CARLBERG QUINTET | Lily Pad, 1353 Cambridge St, Cambridge | April 24 @ 7 pm | $10 |

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