Talking Elephant 2024

Running in parallel, two worlds collide to create an explosion of melodic sound.

Keep Your Lane

His VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR tenure turned out to become both a blessing and a curse for David Jackson: the progressive rock period provided the reedman with prominence on the scene yet left him to be always cast as an avant-garde player which has never been the best payable gig. At some point, the veteran found himself behind the wheel of a truck, and such an unlikely professional stint proved to ground not only DJ’s psyche but also the soul of another musician, René van Commenee, a Dutch percussionist with whom the Englishman would share stage and studio space further down the road. It was the presence of René, who didn’t seem to project any genre-related prejudice towards David that facilitated the flow of this album – ingeniously titled “Keep Your Lane” and letting the former fuel the latter’s foray into a faux-symphonic context.

And it’s tunes, rather than justifiably unhinged arrangements, that drive the devil’s dozen tracks on offer, in major part conceived during Covid-dictated lockdowns, although some of these cuts originated much, much earlier. While most of Jaxon’s listeners will surely focus on “Pioneers Over c, 2023” which foreruns the record’s finale, they’re bound to be surprised to hear the reimagined VdGG classic follow the epic’s familiar melodies, vocal lead included, and not go off on a tangent as far as one would expect, van Commenee’s sound design and strings and Colin Edwin’s fretless bass and EBow taking David’s whistles, flutes and saxes to an eerily majestic, almost orchestral space where shivers down the spine are the dynamic order of the day. Inhabiting the same locale yet looking inside the landscape, opener “Eternal Caravans” concentrates on human microcosm by upgrading Andrea Chimenti’s treatment of Lorca’s poetry with incendiary Andalusian vibe, as heavy beats propel brass arabesques to delirious delights, and shaping a pawn heart out of the duo’s instrumentarium. But if the jovial “Garden Shed” builds a folksy sort of barn on the basis of DJ’s fellow hornblower, BLACK WIDOW’s Clive Jones’ verses and shatters the piece’s very structure by introducing a throbbing dancefloor to the flaming place before the little ensemble’s reading of Moondog’s “Bird’s Lament” cools the air down through the clever use of synthesizers, their understanding of Martin Shaw’s evergreen “Hills Of The North” feels full of solemn glory.

However, the pair’s own initially chthonic “Gateway” – written for KAPREKAR’S CONSTANT and developed to dwell in a different state of body and mind – flutters with equal elegance, the voice of Dorie Jackson, that band’s singer and David’s daughter, serving as a thermal for the elegy to fly serenely higher and higher, as opposed to the urban mood behind the theatrical adventure of “Get A Grip!” and “Gridlockdown” which distills a number from MR AVERELL’s "Gridlock" to get rid of words and John Ellis’ guitar solo, relegating him to rhythmic strum, in favor of captivating woodwind licks and disco swirl. Still, the surfaces René’s hitting on “Pinball Potter” to contrast DJ’s jive make it all just as cinematically incidental, and tense – a perfect way into Bernardo Lanzetti’s blues “JackLanzCom Haiku” and into LE ORME’s renaissance-lightweight “Felona” which David was to perform on five decades ago but had the session canceled.

Now all the missed possibilities return to the righteous course, with parallel lanes crossing each other to a great effect. Time to hitch a ride.


March 2, 2024

Category(s): Reviews
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