David Greenberger, Chris Corsano, Glenn Jones – An Idea in Everything
Okraina Records – 2017
Anybody who has heard Glenn Jones‘s splendid 2011 album The Wanting will have experienced his and drummer Chris Corsano‘s musical partnering on the epic 17:47 track ‘The Orca Grande Cement Factory at Victorville’. This splicing of two unfinished fragments, with Chris using four overdubs, is the closest thing Jones did to an improvised take on that record, although he has dabbled since. Indeed, his improvised centrepiece to follow up My Garden State, ‘The Vernal Pool’ and ‘Alcoeur Gardens’ is some of his most beautiful playing. This new project, recorded in a few days with barely any pre-composed instrumental material, involving Corsano and Massachusetts conversation forager David Greenberger, is a twenty-eight track long celebration of human behaviour, music and sound.
Interestingly, Greenberger and guitarist and banjoist Jones, best known for American Primitive music and studies, focusing mainly on John Fahey and Robbie Basho, appear to have an almost opposite sonic priority, while focusing on very similar subjects. Jones’s albums are built of solo acoustic instrumental takes that he has collected and honed in the time between recording. His compositions have an uncanny ability to listen as either small stories and anecdotes, or conversations; Greenberger’s main art form is the documenting and studying of conversation between human beings.
The tracks on An Idea are as short as forty-eight seconds or as long as five minutes and change, but they most often stay below two minutes. Now, this could stitch together as a slightly incoherent listen, as was the trouble on an album like Dirty Three’s Cinder, but thankfully, the arrangements and Greenberger’s voice are too smart for this. Each small lesson, statement, ramble or rattle (all taken from various nursing homes and meal sites around the Sates) of the vocalist’s, is delivered in a very pleasing, sometimes laconic, matter-of-fact tone that somehow manages to also carry a vast range of emotion. His almost resigned ‘It’s a messy world, and it ain’t getting any better’ on ‘Messy World’, backed by Jones’s very light and pretty guitar refrain is almost heart-breaking and carries more weight than many big flabby pop songs containing a ‘message’.
Chris Corsano, who also recorded the set, is very well regarded on the east coast and has performed for many years in a range of outfits, often as a improvisation duo with saxophonist Paul Flaherty. On this album his drumming works perfectly and intuitively with Jones’s playing; sometimes ramshackle and at the very front of the track (‘I believe in Gravity’, ‘Titusville’), but often subtly creating waves and textures that help everything along beautifully. It is very clever and considered playing, slightly reminiscent at times of Jim White’s work. Jones’s own picking nicely mirrors Corsano, with the banjo tending to occupy the more rattly and edgy tracks, the guitar dealing with the softer emotions and the slide coming to the fore on the more serious thought-provoking pieces. Although Jones made up many of the tunings on the spot (I would guess the reason they are not listed is because he forgot most of them), his experience shows through; these nuggets are in safe hands.
Sometimes, if we’re being a bit cynical, it can feel like we’ve heard it all before on record and much of it is regurgitation; this wonderful recording is a lesson in originality. Its beauty lies in its unhurried and profoundly mundane messages; the language used is nothing new, but each miniature hits the listener immediately and the record stays until long after the final track. Challenging art this album may be, but it is high and beautiful and superb, unlike anything I’ve ever heard. A very impressive achievement.
Order An Idea in Everything via Okarina Records on Bandcamp (Digital & double 10″ vinyl) https://okrainarecords.bandcamp.com/track/messy-world
Main Image: Glenn Jones (first left) w/ David Greenberger and Chris Corsano
– An Idea in Everything recording sessions (Greenwich NY – February 2013) – photo by Barbara Price