The case of Keith Tippett is rather remarkable, in that one seldom finds a musician (mujician, we should say) whose reputation is at the same time grounded on numberless artistic correlations and distinguished by incomparable compositional manners. Aside from a promptly admitted writer's admiration, perhaps the best compliment we can throw is that whatever type of ensemble he writes for and whoever the performers are, the result is always unquestionably Tippett.
Tight arrangements sounding modern but with an eye to the past; right doses of nimble soloism; stirring openings to contemplative vistas (just check "The Dance Of The Intangible Touching"). Ultimately, the feeling that no chance exists for even the smallest faux pas. And we're not bothering to mention the prowess typifying the leader's sensitively mercurial pianism. If you don't know what we're talking about, you're reading the wrong review.
The asserted influence of Irish tunes does not impact the music crucially, except for a few fleeting hints to that tradition. Still, the transparency characterizing every minute of the Nine Dances informs orchestrations that highlight the core of a melody, probably more here than in most of other Tippett albums. A conspicuous example is "The Dance Of Her Returning": simply put, a beautiful song needing no rational investigation. Its two versions are largely outlined by, respectively, Fulvio Sigurtŕ's flugelhorn and Julie Tippetts' pensive singing.
Do not think flowers as the only scent. The Englishman's skillfulness in creating oblique counterpoints replete with edgy lines remains one of his greatest assets. The ever-variable components of "The Dance Of The Wily Old Fox Of The Ballyhoura Mountains" represent a challenge to which the Octet responds with imperturbable class. Amidst shades of genuine free jazz, the ears manage to capture individual directions and intentions as if we were the sound engineer sitting behind the mixer. This, plus other brilliant episodes — such as the initial "The Dance Of The Return Of Swallows" — convey that classic sense of balance, of impartiality if you will, that has certified Keith Tippett's belonging among the composers capable of attributing the maximum degree of freedom to scores that privilege no player in the name of authentic democracy.
But they do privilege us, the lucky testimonies of the man's earnestness. A rare certainty that hasn't been lost in this "all for sale" deplorable age.
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