By Will J.B. Cohn, MusicDish e-Journal
Considering that people these days have an insatiable desire to be entertained at all times (part of the ADD generation that kids are growing up in), it's hard to believe that a minimalist album will hold a listeners attention for very long. With the absence of bass and drums, the music is extremely exposed, and there is risk of boring the listener to death. However, if performed by the right musicians (in this case Gary Husband and Martin Taylor) and composed by a talented composer like Alexander Shulgin, it can be a unique listening experience.
Alexander Shulgin's Part 2 of his new album Triptych is a minimalist album, with only a single musician on all tracks, except the last. All the songs are Shulgin's compositions, but Gary Husband (a well-known jazz multi-instrumentalist) is the one performing them on piano. Over the years Gary Husband has played for many of the jazz heavyweights out there, including Allan Holdsworth, John McLaughlin, Mike Stern, and Billy Cobham.
What makes the album most effective is the combination of Shulgin's strong compositions along with the creative interpretation of these compositions by Husband. For instance, while the second track, "Primadonna", contains the dark and ominous chord voicing of Shulgin, Husband is incorporating bluesy licks in the open space. On "Snowstormie", the chords are characteristic of Shulgin, but the jazz lines that are played over these chords are clearly Husband's ideas coming into play. Sometimes, different musical ideas clash, but in this case, the choices that Husband makes as the player and the choices that Shulgin makes as the composer complement each other, and mesh into a strong finished product.
The last track, entitled "Woman's Happiness Theme" features the guitar playing of Martin Taylor, a well-known British jazz guitarist, whose warm and clean sound adds a welcome and long-overdue new layer to the sound of the acoustic piano. Throughout the track, Taylor and Husband give each other room to breath. When Taylor is playing lead, Husband takes a back seat, providing the chords in the background and allowing Taylor to show-off his jazz chops.
The addition of Martin Taylor works so well that I find it surprising that he plays on only the last song. In fact, since Taylor is most well known as a solo performer, I wouldn't mind if one or two tracks were just him. Although the acoustic piano sound is easy on the ears, after several tracks in a row, the album appears to be a craving a different color, and this craving is satisfied only at the very end. Regardless, Shulgin's compositions are strong enough to get past the repetitive timbre, and along with Husband's creative interpretation of the compositions, the album is a success. And, depending on how ADD you are, it should hold your attention.