Doing my daily rounds of review websites, I came across a review of Nels Cline, Wally Shoup & Chris Corsano’s free-improv album Immolation/Immersion at The Axiom of Choice. Now, I like Jurriaan Hage and his website (though his track-by-track review style has worn thin on me), but he’s never really had much of an ear for the avant-garde. I’ve also never seen a jazz review on his site. So, I can’t imagine why he’s now reviewing some of the most abrasive free jazz I’ve heard in the past year. This would be like me trying to write a review of a country album: I could say “I don’t like this very much,” but not much beyond that. And sure enough, this review isn’t particularly useful. About the only thing to be garnered from it is that if you don’t like free jazz, you won’t like Immolation/Immersion.
Interestingly, I didn’t much like it either, and I do like a lot of free improv. I bought it because I really enjoyed Cline’s improv trio disc from the previous year, Ash and Tabula with Andrea Parkins and Tom Rainey; but Immolation/Immersion lacks the atmosphere of that album. Being a bit of a shredfest at times, it calls out for the percussive control and direction of a Tom Rainey, at least to my ears, but Chris Corsano’s drumming fails to fulfill that role, whether by accident or design. I’m still giving it a chance, but for now I agree with Jurriaan on this one.
I guess my criticizing Jurriaan for reviewing an album, the context of which he knows absolutely nothing, seems a little silly after what I wrote two entries ago: “expressing a simple opinion is still the most important thing” when it comes to reviewing, regardless of how much you know or don’t know about the album’s stylistic context. Am I flip-flopping? I guess so. I’m glad Jurriaan offered us an undiluted opinion — and it should be noted that if he did like this album, I wouldn’t be writing this — but all things considered, it does seem sort of pointless.