Out Of The Mist

Joseph Jarman & Leroy Jenkins

Ocean Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's not often a disc leaves me speechless... for the wrong reasons.

As open-minded as I try to be about music genres I don't know much about, there are times that the product leaves me scratching my head and asking, "What the hell was that ?!?" Experimental improvisational musicians Joseph Jarman & Leroy Jenkins have done this to me with their recent collaboration Out Of The Mist, a disc that is quite painful to listen to at times.

I don't know why these two musicians have been pigeonholed as "new age"; I don't even know what category they accurately fall under. More of a tonal headache than anything else, they take the spirit of new age music and crush it under the weight of their own idealistic plans.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Oh, sure, there are moments that stand out as exceptional - but they don't reveal themselves until the second spin of the disc. "Opening" is one such track, a mixture of kalimba (or thumb piano), chime and penny whistle (which is provided by Lindsey Horner - she also plays the bass) takes a bit of time to get used to. Once you're in the mood, it almost sounds like something you'd hear deep in Tibet, and is often pretty. Likewise, the album's closer "Chant" has some interesting moments as voices, chimes and gongs blend in to create a spiritual tone.

But often the downfall of Out Of The Mist is the pairing of instruments that don't belong together played with no idea where the tune is going. "Hands" features Jenkins on harmonica - and the resulting cacophony made me long for some semblance of musical order. Somehow, mixing the harmonica with lsan, cowbells and piano just doesn't work... not in this case.

Maybe more of the problem with Out Of The Mist is the fact it sounds like it was recorded without a musical script. Jarman and Jenkins tend to deviate from any chordal structure often - worse yet, they seem to revel in the dischordance they produce. "Prayer At Sea" could have been such a wonderful track, but often the Peruvian clay flute (Jarman), voice (Jenkins) and piano (provided by Myra Melford) sound like they're playing three different songs at once. "Riding Currents" features viola and bass clarinet, both sounding as if they have different objectives in the song. This is not art... this is madness.

No doubt there are some people to whom this might appeal to, but anyone who turns to this disc expecting new age music a la Yanni - or even jazz a la Thelonious Monk - are going to be in for one hell of a disappointment... not that Yanni would have been any better.

It would be easy to sit at the keyboard and take potshots at Out Of The Mist, but the music speaks for itself much louder than any criticism I could level at it. Jarman and Jenkins are near legends in ambient jazz - too bad this disc isn't anything close to music.

Rating: D

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Ocean Records, and is used for informational purposes only.