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Album cover

Anthony Curtis - Book Of The Key

Artist: Anthony Curtis
Title: Book Of The Key
Label: Jester Records TRICK038
Length(s): 74 minutes
Year(s) of release: 2004
Month of review: [08/2005]

Line up

Anthony Curtis - guitars, oud
Tony Levin - bass, chapman stick
Lewis Pragasam - drums, percussion
Mike Keneally - fender rhodes
Jeff Gauthier - violin
Ronan Chris Murphy - harmonium

Tracks

1) Ruins 12.15
2) Gallabalba 2.17
3) Inland Sea 3.09
4) Book Of The Key 23.24 MP3
5) Hymn To Helios 3.31
6) Balinus 3.58
7) Saturnalia 3.58
8) From Towers To The Dome Of Heaven 2.08
9) Hikmat Al-ishraq 16.17
10) Oracle 2.22

Summary

The music

The opening tracks of this album by Anthony Curtis can be seen as mostly a lengthy jam in which guitar takes the leading role. Most of the time the atmosphere is quite laid back, guitar being supported, sometimes even rivalled, by violin. This without leaving the good spirit. This laid in a bed of bass and drums which are pronounced without pushing really to the fore, supportive without following blindly. With this the music atmospherically moves in the ECM direction, without fully getting there.

When we reach the title track things change: the track opens moodily with grouchy bass and threatening guitar, only to escalate after some minutes into an angry sounding duel between guitar and bass, urged on by the drums. This angry dueling slowly fades into a section in which the guitar clearly wins out with freaky and prolonged play. There are some idiosyncracies still there on the other instruments, for instance in the duel with the jazzy Fender Rhodes, but for the must of it this track is highly freaky and rather tiring.

With Hymn to Helios we return to the more laid back feel of the opening three tracks, which is more or less continued in Balinus. Saturnalia, on the other hand, starts off with a sharply King Crimson/ProjeKts alike guitar run, which is backed up by the bass/stick sound produced by Levin and the heavier drums.

Hikmat al-ishraq is another long track, focussing on guitar, Fender Rhodes and rolling drums. The speed is once again up on this one, creating a driven nervousness. Uncharacteristically the tracks ends peacefully. But just when you think that will see us to a quiet end Oracle opens with a bit of a road, simpering down into the now unexpected peacefull end.

Conclusion

On this album Curtis comes up with a mix of long neurotic jazz improvisations and more laid back material which takes down the tension. This makes the album interesting mostly for those into the sort of improvisations of which were made a lot in the mid seventies. It remains an acquired taste, though.

© Roberto Lambooy