Ivo Neame and Jim Hart – Multiverse [Edition Records, 2020]
It is counterintuitive from a certain perspective, a craft of art takes years in making and still it sounds so new. Speed of progress in art is somewhat non-linear. Yet sometimes provocative and unexpected works of art demand time in the making, unforeseen twists and a slower pace of the time usually allowed to creativity to erupt. Many things in Jim Hart and Ivo Neame‘s Multiverse, released on Edition Records, sound frantically connected with a concept of slow time. Take the opening track Moksha. Even if the energetic drumming, the overabundance of digital filters and the catchy Fender Rhodes create a futuristic scenario of frenzyness, yet the time is slowed, constrained, challenged, and finally dissected.
Jim Hart and Ivo Neame have a longstanding collaboration, nurtured during their tenure supporting Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset, but they are recording for the first time as a duo. Scottish pianist Ivo Neame has built himself a name in scene of European pianism, thanks to a maniacal control over the polyrhythmic side of his music, mainly showed with the trio Phronesis. Rhythm has primacy. I am thinking in a rhythmic perspective first and foremost because it’s where the interaction happens with the other instruments –says Neame in the promo video for Multiverse. Jim Hart has the reputation as one of the most regarded vibraphonist in the UK jazz scene. In Multiverse they both look at expanding the palette of sounds and styles they are mostly known for: it brings together so many of our shared influences and inspirations, including John Taylor and Hermeto Pascoal as well as our own compositions which have definitely been inspired by each other as well –says Hart. Neame echoes his thoughts and digs deeper in what was the risk-taking apporach behind the duo: You don’t take as many risks if you don’t know that player and how to make music together. The both started working on bites that eventually followed up being included in current album in 2016 and the overall work took over two years in the making, expanding their vision, as well as their portfolio of instruments: Hart is frequently monopolyzing the channels of both drums and vibraphone, while Neame divides himself between Fender Rhodes, synths and acoustic piano -not to forget clarinet! But there’s a catch.
It wasn’t when the duo shared the music with a ghost member, that the project took off to unforeseen perspective. This happened after meeting with guitarist Matt Calvert, here acting as producer. Best known for his blend of electronic, math-rock and thought provoking sounds with Three Trapped Tigers, Strobes and Heritage Orchestra, Calvert is the best kept secret behind many of the tracks. Matt Calvert is one of the best producers of his generation –says Hart- and was the obvious choice for a collaborator on this album. Having both worked with him in many various projects over the years we knew that his aesthetic and sound would be a perfect compliment for this music. In fact the term ‘producer’ does not necessarily do justice to his involvement in this project. Ivo and I wrote, performed and recorded all the music in duo then sent it all to Matt giving him carte blanche to do what he wanted with it. The layers he added and the sampling and treatment of what we sent him really brought it all to life and took it to the next level.
The opening track Moksha is based on a tune released in Neame‘s eponymous album released in 2016, the track there named Moksha Music. What sounded like a Corea-influenced dynamic and ebullient song, here is translated in a bombastic assault of synths. The initial two bars borrow the former theme and the musicians chop it up, changing beats here and there, slowing the pace down at its essential core. Hart‘s drumming is a sublime refinement of his ability to create a complex net of accents and nuances. As the track grows bigger into a futuristic and cramped mood, moving through Neame‘s solos at Fender Rhodes, Calvert adds delays and noises, that recreate a sort of sonic quest in the style Herbie Hancock‘s Future2Future. At the three minutes mark Neame and Hart have succeeded in slicing the rhythmic structure in so many layers, that they create a musical intensity at nuclear fission level. The duo (plus one) is all but interested in following the thematic development of the initial melody, yet to twist it, to unleash new potential directions and go hunting for new ideas.
Disguised in the shape of eletronic jazz adventures that might echo back to Norwegian jazz electronic pioneers Jaga Jazzist, Multiverse is somewhat a reflective record, where attention to details is kind of obsessive. Neame gives room to a different side of his playing, leaving the floor for Hart‘s idiosyncratic percussion playing. The pianist expands even more his palette of unique mathematic riddles, that which contributed to make him one of the most relevant voices in post-Mehldau/The Bad Plus scene. Calvert focuses on staying apart from disturbing the interaction between the two, adding his post-production interventions in the way of insightful and camouflaged enhancements.
Room 1003, again a show of sonic ferociousness, juggles between the synthetic aggressiveness of bit-like keys and the lively clarinet played by Neame. Again the tune is sourced from pianist’s previous album, this time from the track Ghost Shadow. But the duo has an acoustic and intimate side, that seamlessly integrates with the rest of the higher-end of the sonic spectrum. The intricate Serie de Arco by Hermeto Pascoal is revised with a delicate piano and vibraphone duo, that respectfully renders the Stravinskian leanings of the original, in way as intimate as they pay homage to John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler in Au Contraire. And both Taylor and Pascoal linger behind the elegant and soft-spoken duo in the closing Back Home. A tender dialogue that silently, yet sparkly, contrasts with the rest of the album, with Neame fuelling it with an ecstatic energy that makes everything more and more vivid.
Even if Multiverse is the kind of work that offers a different side of two renowed musicians, still is not to be considered minor at any reason. Potentially it sheds a light on another side that would be desirable to listen again from the two (or better three). No matter how much time it takes to develop a new chapter that has the same degree of innovation.
Jim Hart & Ivo Neame
1 Moksha 6.34
2 The Exchange 5.54
3 Au Contraire 3.35
4 Room 1003 3.47
5 Serie De Arco 4.22
6 Transference 6.37
7 Back Home 7.32
Jim Hart: Drums, Vibes, Marimba, Percussion
Ivo Neame: Fender Rhodes, Piano, Mellotron, Hammond Organ, Clarinet
Matt Calvert: Synths, Sampling, Electronics, Production and Mixing.