Celloman: Panacea

Cellist with electronics creates some attractive passages, especially with violinist Samy Bishai, but often veers into the call-on-hold zone

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Ivan Hussey is a cellist who has been around for some time, mainly as a session musician, but also under the name Celloman. A talented player, he also contributes to this album on keys, bass and programming. The material is a fusion of classical, rock and ethnic music with elements of jazz, although the latter is not in great evidence.

The sections that are unaccompanied or acoustic are attractive interludes, noticeably classically orientated, but these often become mixed with drumbeat, percussive effects and even trumpet, presumably produced by the programming, as nothing on the sleeve indicates otherwise.

Many of the tracks vary, using different styles: Ce Noir has the trumpet effects and a few blues licks on the strings that if developed might bear comparison with Sugar Cane Harris, but unfortunately not to be. Surya benefits from changes in tempo, though the beat seems programmed at either stop or go; the vocal support at the end oddly brings to mind a Morricone soundtrack.

Electronically produced drum patterns occur regularly but they’re often too predictable. The metronomic beat is okay for keeping time, but lacks variation and after a while seems relentless. Ironic in the title of the fourth track, although this has key changes that give some dramatic urgency and tension.

There are moments when the background sound is less apparent or disappears. The very brief Intro is Hussey’s cello but it quickly segues into Panacea (which is defined as a “solution or remedy for difficulty” – well, it’s based on Bach’s Air On The G String, so safe territory). Interlude In F Minor is cello overdubbed and attractively played, layered with a walking bass line, although this could be more inventive.

The occasions that feature violinist Samy Bishai impress, as on Asmara, its stops giving a tango feel. Some might be familiar with his work with Zoe Rahman, Arun Ghosh and others, including Arabic Jazz with Natacha Atlas. He’s a versatile musician who plays with clarity and precision and his interaction with Hussey’s cello stands out.

Unfortunately these moments are brief, as the material is often formulaic and has a habit of getting so far then returning to a previous theme. So does “call on hold” music, which I’m afraid too often springs to mind.

Discography
Intro To Panacea; Panacea; Ce Noir; Relentless; Surya; Interlude In F Minor; Asmara; Hope; Entry To Jerusalem; Jerusalem; Nostalgia (45.31)
Ivan Hussey (clo, elclo, elb, kyb, prog, v); Samy Bishai, Stephen Hussey (vn); Marouchka Danae, Lola Lillitos (v). Ramsgate, 2021.
Jambila Music JAMBCD014