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Prezens by David Torn

Twenty-years after his inaugural and groundbreaking release "Cloud About Mercury," for ECM Records, guitar and electronics wizard David Torn’s career has spiraled into various music-based conduits. And with other influential recordings for ECM and the now defunct German CMP record label, Torn’s recording output has taken second stage to his mastering and film scoring endeavors. Simply stated, his prolific artisanship does not shine any brighter then what is presented here on this wondrously skewed sonic assault.

With this New York City based avant/modern jazz trio providing support, the overall results yield a mesmerizing plot that often parallels a sci-fi schematic via a doomsday effect. All in good cheer, of course. Here, Tim Berne’s angular sax lines amid Torn’s unimaginable sound-sculpting maneuvers spark the quartet into loosely arranged, avant-funk grooves, teeming with garrulous improvisational opuses and fuzoid, free-jazz encounters.

On the opener simply titled "AK," the band pursues a calm-before-the storm motif, followed by Torn’s gut-wrenching Hendrixian crunch chords and steel-cutting upper register plaintive cries. As the plot thickens! And with the piece "Rest & Unrest," Torn’s guitar phrasings sound like a digital Theremin interspersed with keyboardist Craig Taborn’s ambient EFX. Then in other regions of sound and scope, drummer Tom Rainey executes polyrhythmic flurries, underscoring Berne’s fleeting choruses and Taborn’s layered keys.

No two pieces are distinctly alike, evident on "Bulbs," where the guitarist’s darkly metallic voicings give way to yearning upper register single note lines. Essentially, the band’s divergence and unorthodox interplay makes near perfect sense, as they also delve into sequences rooted within NYC downtown style improv, firmed-up by scorching exchanges.

Rainey’s swaggering and thrusting beats during "Ring For Endless Travel," imparts a groove-centric foundation for a series of contrasts, marked by Torn’s quirky and twisted thematic forays. As they surge into an Indo-fusion vamp on "Miss Place, The Mist.... ".

Ultimately, Torn’s reemergence as a solo artist is chock full of interstellar meltdowns. At times he sounds like he’s spewing shards of metal from his ax, but he tempers the flow in spots and provides a bit of respite for one’s neural system. Either way, this album looms as one of the musical standouts of 2007. Torn maximizes his artistry while raising the bar a few notches throughout this irrefutably, persuasive musical event.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: David Torn
  • CD Title: Prezens
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: ECM Records
  • Musicians: David Torn (guitars, live sampling), Tim Berne (alto sax), Craig Taborn (Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3, mellotron), Tom Rainey (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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