Eric Wallack / Harlan Mark Vale - "Molten Glass: Images"
(IMCR Records 2003, IMCR #007)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: October 2003
I'd been familiar with Harlan Mark Vale's work on several collaborations with Rotcod Zzaj, and on Molten Glass: Images, Vale's keyboards team up with Eric Wallack on Chapman Stick for some gorgeous jazz/prog/soundscape/avant-garde improvisations.
The set opens with the title track, an easy paced, exploratory piece that finds a pleasant middle ground between jazz and ambient. Chapman Stick and keyboards do a light dance, creating measured phrases that are melodic but challenging. "Vertical Cloud Building" is more soundscape oriented, with a nice mixture of spacey keys and jazzy soundscapes from the Chapman Stick. "Dissolve Upon Awakening" is a proggy symphonic jazz tune with a dreamy ethereal edge. Given that Stravinski is referenced in the title of "Stravinski's Tea Cup", it's no surprise that the music has an orchestral quality. Vale's keys are passionate and majestic, and Wallack's light Stick playing provides an interesting contrast. But the real cooker of the set is "The Gravity Of Being". Vale and Wallack embark on a dueling match that sees both musicians getting ultra feisty on their respective instruments. The music is jazz based but includes some avant-garde improv stylings. And once the duo really take off we're in space-jazz jam heaven. The music transitions between fiery jamming and elusively busy sections, and there's loads of tasty playing from both.
In summary, this is a very nice set of music that made me want to pull out albums like David Torn's "Cloud About Mercury" and the early Shadowfax albums. The sound and mix are outstanding, making for a beautiful headphones listen. Eric tells me another collaboration with Vale should be hot on this heels of this one. I'll eagerly look forward to hearing it.
For more information you can visit the Eric Wallack web site at:
The CD is available for $6 postage paid from Eric Wallack; 445 North Main St; Bowling Green, OH 43402.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz