Thursday, May 12, 2016

NZ Music Month: Norman Meehan - Small Holes in the Silence

I was hoping to get the first of the NZ Music Month posts up a bit sooner but school deadlines had the blog momentarily on hold. Better late than never I guess.......

Small Holes In The Silence (Rattle Records)
Norman Meehan (p) Hannah Griffin (v) Hayden Chisholm (as)

Norman Meehan has been setting text to music for several years now, starting with the 2009 release Sun Moon Stars Rain (Attar Media) featuring the work of e.e. cummings and following up with two albums setting the work of Bill Manhire - Buddhist Rain and Making Baby Float (both on Rattle).

This time around, Norm sets works from James K. Baxter, Hone Tuwhare, Bill Manhire, Alistair Campbell, Eileen Duggan and David Mitchell. And while the overall mood is sombre with ballads the order of the day, I feel there is enough variety in both the text and music to keep things moving and engaging. It is unhurried and uncluttered, providing clarity for the words and music to speak and breath.

A couple of favourties include the succinct "High Country Weather" (James K. Baxter) [in fact, I was singing this to myself yesterday and was so absorbed that I missed my train] and the wonderfully paced "Frost" (Eileen Duggan) featuring a great blend from Hannah and Hayden during the melody and improvised dialogue between piano and saxophone.

The pairing of Hannah (I can't recall hearing her sound better) and Norman displays a richness developed over many years and adding to that runs the risk of a "third wheel" situation. Although I can hear a couple of other NZ saxophonists who may have made fine contributions to the album (with very different end results), Hayden's touch was the correct match for this album.

For me, Small Holes In The Silence is Norman's strongest work to date. If he continues this collaboration with Hannah and setting texts (and I hope he does), I would love hear a rhythm section added into the mix.

This Radio NZ interview with Norman provides some insight into the album and his process of setting texts.

Rattle Records New Zealand Poetry

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