Steve Tibbetts Life Of (18.05.2018)

Steve Tibbetts — Life Of (18.05.2018)                      Steve Tibbetts — Life Of (May 18, 2018)Steve Tibbetts — Life Of (18.05.2018)Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
Genre: Avant Folk, Chamber Jazz, Ethno Folk, Ethno Jazz
Album release: 18.05.2018
Record Label: ECM
01 BLOODWORK     1:39
02 LIFE OF EMILY     2:13
03 LIFE OF SOMEONE     2:30
04 LIFE OF MIR     5:51
05 LIFE OF LOWELL     3:28
06 LIFE OF JOEL     4:15
07 LIFE OF ALICE     3:33
08 LIFE OF DOT     4:21
09 LIFE OF CAROL     3:02
10 LIFE OF JOAN     4:28
11 LIFE OF EL     3:31
12 END AGAIN     2:34
13 START AGAIN     9:06
±→     Steve Tibbetts   Guitar, Piano
±→      Marc Anderson   Percussion, Handpan
±→      Michelle Kinney   Cello, Drones
Ξ↔Ξ      One~of~a~kind guitarist and record~maker Steve Tibbetts has an association with ECM dating back to 1981, with his body of work reflecting that of an artist who follows his own winding, questing path. The BBC has described his music as “an atmospheric brew… brilliant, individual.” Life Of…, his ninth album for the label, serves as something of a sequel to his 2010 ECM release, Natural Causes, which Jazz Times called “music to get lost in.” Like the earlier album, Life Of… showcases the richness of his Martin 12~string acoustic guitar, along with his gamelan~like piano and artfully deployed field samples of Balinese gongs; the sonic picture also incorporates the sensitive percussion of long~time musical partner Marc Anderson and the almost subliminal cello drones of Michelle Kinney. Tibbetts, though rooted in the American Midwest, has made multiple expeditions to Southeast Asia, including Bali and Nepal; not only the sounds but the spirits of those places are woven into his musical DNA as much as the expressive inspiration of artists from guitarist Bill Connors to sarangi master Sultan Khan. Life Of… has a contemplative shimmer like a reflecting pool, with most of the album’s pieces titled after friends and family, living and past.
♠       After the long break following Tibbetts’ 1994 ECM release The Fall of Us All — a period that saw him collaborate with the likes of Norwegian Hardanger fiddle player Knut Hamre and Tibetan Buddhist nun Chöying Drolma — the guitarist has returned to a consistent production schedule for the label in the 21st century. He has released an album via ECM every eight years, with Life Of preceded by the similarly acoustic~oriented Natural Causes (2010) and the fiery, electric A Man About a Horse (2002). These impressionistic, densely layered creations led Jazziz magazine to note about the guitarist~producer’s style of evocative abstraction: “He seems more interested in radiant sound paintings than… linear structures. The forest is more intriguing to him than the trees.”
♠       Tibbetts says the difference between making Natural Causes and Life Of is that he’s “a better piano player now,” adding: “I labor over these records to perhaps an insane degree, but that’s not about achieving any kind of instrumental perfection. So many things in our culture are over~produced now, sanded down to a kind of flawless metallic gleam. I’ve gone more organic as the years have gone on. I want the records to have a human, handcrafted quality.”
♠       As with Natural Causes, Tibbetts mixed the record in the concert hall of Macalester College, near where he lives in Minnesota. “I take all my gear down to the hall and play the tracks back in the room’s acoustic, capturing the room tone and mixing it that way. I set up two pairs of mics: one pair in the center of the hall, one pair in the back. It allows the hall’s ambience to settle around the piano and percussion, and the room’s natural acoustics help the guitar settle into the piano. It’s a more labor~intensive process, and the effect is perhaps subtle to most ears. But it feels more organic to me, adding some reality to the sound. I suppose it’s like a bay leaf in a soup — it has an intangible effect that adds to the experience.”
♠       The album’s key tone generator is Tibbetts’ 12~string guitar, the Martin D~12~20 he got from his father in the late ‘70s. He has long incorporated into his playing string bends and vibrato inspired by jazz guitarist Bill Connors and blues~rocker Harvey Mandel, as well as the vocal ideal that Sultan Khan achieved with his bowed sarangi. “That Martin guitar is now, almost a half~century old, with the frets almost worn flat — and I keep the strings old and kind of dead, something I got from Leo Kottke,” he explains. “So, the instrument has a mellow, aged sound, with its own peculiar internal resonance — like it has a small concert hall inside it. I try to bring out that quality by stringing the guitar in double courses, the four lower strings paired in unisons rather than octaves. You really have to physically engage with the strings of this guitar, while also being careful that your touch doesn’t de~tune the strings. But setting it up that way makes it so I can play with the resonant qualities of the wood, drawing out overtones and getting the single string lines to ‘sing’ — which is what I loved about the sound of Sultan Khan, the way he could fill the room like a voice.”
♠       Tibbetts plays the piano as kind of virtual gamelan, using the keyboard like a row of gongs and letting it cycle through the structure of a piece. The layers of his guitar and piano interact with the actual gongs and other metallophones Tibbetts sampled in Bali and that he triggers via another 12~string guitar equipped with a MIDI interface. Such tracks as “Life of Mir” also include the subtly placed cello lines of Kinney (who also appeared on Tibbetts’ 1989 ECM disc, Big Map Idea). Then there is the ever~sympathetic percussion of Anderson, who has played on all of Tibbetts’ ECM albums. “Working with Marc is like working with my own hands,” the guitarist says. “I don’t have to tell my hands to find the fretboard — they just do. It’s the same with Marc, after 40 years. I don’t have to ask him to do anything in particular. On his own, he always finds the right drum, the right approach.”
♠       About the sound and sensibility of his two most recent albums, Tibbetts says: “I suppose nostalgia inevitably creeps into life at middle age, so it’s fitting that these two records are more about quiet, acoustic reflection and less about shredding on electric guitar, as with A Man About a Horse and The Fall of Us All.” The titles for 10 of the songs on Life Of refer to loved ones or even a person Tibbetts might have observed closely over time while at work in a local coffee shop — “Life of Emily,” “Life of Joel,” “Life of Someone” and so on. This lends abstract music a personal element, even if the titles came independently of the musical inspiration. This is especially so in the scene~setting opener “Bloodwork,” the title of which relates to Tibbetts going through an intense medical procedure to help his sick sister. He says: “It’s simultaneously a very personal word and a very clinical word, which I suppose echoes the experience.”
♠       As for the long, if consistent, gaps between albums, Tibbetts concludes: “I’m not churning out a tremendous amount of music, it’s true. But I think my listeners trust me. When I take the time to put something together over a long period and am finally satisfied with it, I think they will be, too.”
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