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Gordon Grdina's Nomad Trio

Nomad

Review by Gary Hill

This instrumental album is not for everyone, but it is not intended to be. Frank Zappa once said, "The more mediocre your music is, the more accessible it is to a larger number of people in the United States." So, if these guys wanted to appeal to large audiences, they'd play mediocre, mainstream music. What we have here, though, is challenging freeform jazzy music that sits pretty well in the zone of what the Rock In Opposition movement was all about. As strange as this can be a times, it's also compelling. There a lot of links to King Crimson in terms of sonic territory here, too. I should mention that it's possible that some of the time I mention acoustic guitar, it is actually oud, as both are in use here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Wildfire
This comes in quite freeform a bit like the weirder side of jazzy King Crimson. It grows out from there into a seriously strange, but oddly compelling jazz jam that's very much in line with the Rock in Opposition movement. The changes are fast-paced, crazed and at weird angles. As crazed as this is, there are some particularly intriguing and oddly catchy instrumental lines that emerge here and there. It definitely has some guitar dominated bits that make me think of King Crimson again. There are a lot of cacophonous bits, too. The number shifts toward mellower zones as it approaches the closing. At ten-minutes-and-sixteen seconds of music, this is the longest track of the set.
Nomad
Wandering guitar begins this and holds it. It's again quite freeform and a bit Robert Fripp-like. The other instruments join around the minute-and-a-half mark. As the piece marches forward it has some pretty dramatic elements. It's perhaps a bit less RIO-based than the opener was in the opening movement, but this is far from mainstream music. It is so effective, though. It moves into some crazed piano based territory after a time, and the piece continues to evolve, getting closer to the RIO zone. The closing part really rocks.
Ride Home
The freeform jazz stylings emerge at the onset of this piece, growing in volume and strangeness as it continues. This thing gets pretty insane at times. It gets into some seriously heavy zones at points. It's also frantically fast.
Benbow
Mellower, but no less freeform, this builds rather tentatively with just guitar at its heart. Other instruments get involved after the three-minute mark. The piano takes command for a time. It turns decidedly crazed when the electric guitar starts laying down frantic lines of Frippian rocking.
Thanksgiving
A percussion exploration opens this number and holds it for the first couple minutes or so. Piano is the first instrument to join. Gradually the arrangement fills out and gets into the kind of instrumental weirdness one has grown to expect here. It is another that gets quite crazed.
Lady Choral
Mellow piano opens this and rules the number as it moves through its exploration. In fact, it's quite a while before any other instruments join. When they do the number remains sedate, but has some energetic playing. Oud playing takes command after a time, and the other instruments drop away, bringing some world music elements to the proceedings. While the arrangement again fills out, it remains the mellowest piece of the set all the way to the end.
 
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